Sunday, October 20, 2013

Two Florida convicted killers captured after release on forged orders - Reuters

» Two Florida convicted killers captured after release on forged orders - Reuters
20/10/13 06:06 from Top Stories - Google News
Washington PostTwo Florida convicted killers captured after release on forged ordersReutersBy Bill Cotterell. TALLAHASSEE, Florida | Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:06am EDT. TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Two convicted murderers released from a F...

Two Florida convicted killers captured after release on forged orders

By Bill Cotterell
Escaped convicts Joseph Ivan Jenkins (L) and Charles Walker are shown in this combination of undated booking photos provided by the Florida Department of Corrections October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Florida Dept of Corrections/Handout via Reuters
TALLAHASSEE, Florida | Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:06am EDT
(Reuters) - Two convicted murderers released from a Florida prison based on forged court documents were captured on Saturday, law enforcement officials said.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were arrested at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City, Florida, at about 6:40 p.m., the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement.
The pair were arrested without incident, according to the department. A desk clerk at the inn said authorities captured the fugitives quietly.
"During the investigation, information was developed to lead investigators to Bay County. An interview with an associate of an inmate helped pinpoint the men," said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Plessinger would not elaborate on the associate's relationship with the men. She said the two were unarmed when they were caught on Saturday.
Authorities mounted a nationwide manhunt for Jenkins and Walker, who were released from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle, Florida, on September 27 and October 8, respectively. Their releases were based on forged documents that indicated their life sentences had been reduced.
Both were serving life sentences without eligibility for parole. Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 in Orange County and Jenkins of first-degree murder in 1998.
A court spokeswoman in Orange County, Florida, where the men were convicted, said earlier this week that someone signed the name of Chief Judge Belvin Perry of the state's Ninth Judicial Circuit Court on two official-looking documents granting their release.
Perry presided over the 2011 trial of Casey Anthony, the young mother acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Perry told CNN earlier this week that his signature was easy to find online on documents related to the Anthony case.
The spokeswoman said the paperwork passed through that department and was forwarded to the state corrections department. The origin of the documents is unclear. The paperwork was not emailed to the clerk but may have been mailed or dropped off at the office, she said.
After their release, Jenkins and Walker even checked in as paroled inmates at the Orlando County Jail before vanishing.
Both men turned up separately at the jail, within 48 hours of their release, to be checked for outstanding arrest warrants and be photographed and fingerprinted for a registry of released felons, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jeff Williamson.
Such registration is required under Florida law.
Their erroneous release was discovered only this week, when a relative of one of their victims received a routine notice of the release.
Walker visited family members in Orlando after his escape. Earlier on Saturday, relatives of the fugitives held a news conference in that city, urging them to surrender.
State Attorney Jeff Ashton in Orlando said on Thursday that a third inmate, Jeffrey Forbes, serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted a similar scheme last spring.
Forbes is now being prosecuted for forgery and attempted escape.

(Writing by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Cooney)

» Fla.'s Fugitive Prisoners Surprised at Motel - ABC News
20/10/13 15:20 from Top Stories - Google News
Washington PostFla.'s Fugitive Prisoners Surprised at MotelABC NewsTwo Florida prisoners who used forged documents to escape knew it was just a matter of time before they were caught. Frank Chiumento (Sha MENTO) is chief of the U.S. ..

Escaped Fla. Prisoners Grilled: Who Helped You?

Back in custody after using forged documents to escape their life sentences, two convicted killers were being grilled on Sunday by law enforcement authorities who said they expect to make more arrests in a case that has given both court and corrections officials in Florida a black eye.
Among the questions being posed to Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker: Who forged the papers? Who helped you run from police? What other prisoners have gotten away with this? Who was coming from Atlanta to whisk you out of Florida?
"I can tell you, there will be more arrests," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey told a news conference Sunday, hours after Jenkins and Walker, both 34, were arrested without incident at a motel in Panama City.
"We will be backtracking to those who helped carry out this fraud and along the way we will be looking closely at anyone who may have helped harbor these fugitives," Bailey said.
Jenkins and Walker, both 34, were captured Saturday night at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City Beach, a touristy area of putt-putt courses and go-kart tracks. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference in Orlando — 350 miles away — urging them to surrender.
The men, who had fled the Orlando area after word of their ruse became public, did not know law enforcement was on the way to Panama City. They were waiting in the motel for someone to arrive from Atlanta to take them out of state, Bailey said, adding that authorities don't yet know who that person was or where the convicts planned to go. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is working with Georgia authorities to answer those questions, he said.
"They had to have had help — a lot of help — to get to where they were last night," Bailey said. He said the men were unarmed and didn't have much money on them.
Bailey's department is pursuing a tip that someone was offering to forge documents for prisoners for $8,000. He said there are at least two other recent cases where prisoners were thwarted trying to use fake documents to escape.
"The documents themselves looked good, they looked official," Bailey said, although they contained the signatures of people who normally don't deal with release documents, something that maybe should have raised questions, he said.
Meanwhile, Corrections Secretary Michael Crews scheduled a meeting with court clerks on Monday to find ways to prevent future escapes through bogus documents.
"It is embarrassing, but my concentration at this point is making sure that we come up with a process and a procedure that prohibits this from happening in the future," Crews told a news conference.
Crews has already ordered his department to begin verifying the legitimacy of early-release orders with a judge, not just court clerks. He said his department receives a few thousand such orders each year, although he acknowledged that reduced sentences in murder cases are rare.
He also expressed relief that the men were captured.
"I did a lot of praying for the last five or six days," he said. "To say we're thankful I think is probably an understatement. These were two hardened, convicted felons and the thought of them being out there in our state caused me great concern."
The two prisoners had not been traveling together, but hooked up once word of the forgeries became public and traveled from Orlando to Panama City, said Frank Chiumento (Sha MENTO), chief of the U.S. Marshals Service for Florida and the Caribbean.
Chiumento told The Associated Press on Sunday that Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker knew their time on the run was limited once their ruse had been uncovered. They were under surveillance for about two and a half days, and the men were surprised when authorities finally knocked on their motel door.
A woman who answered the phone at the motel said she saw police coming and they went into room 227. After authorities left, the parking lot of the two-story motel next to Big Willy's Swimwear was mostly empty.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in the Panhandle before they walked free without anyone realizing the paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge's forged signature, was bogus. The documents seemingly reduced their life sentences to 15 years.
Jenkins was released first on Sept. 27 and registered himself as a felon Sept. 30 in an Orlando jail. Walker was released Oct. 8 and also registered himself with authorities three days later.
Family members said they thought the releases were legitimate and that the convicts even spent time with their relatives before they disappeared.
Jenkins had been locked up since the 1998 killing and botched robbery of Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man. It wasn't until Tuesday, when one of Pugh's relatives contacted the state attorney's office to let them know Jenkins had been let out, that authorities knew of the escape.
Prosecutors reviewed Jenkins' case file and quickly discovered the forged paperwork, including motions from prosecutors to correct "illegal" sentences, accompanied by orders allegedly filed by Judge Belvin Perry within the last couple of months. The orders granted a 15-year sentence.
Farrington reported from Tallahassee.
Follow Farrington at


» 'More arrests' expected after authorities capture 2 escaped Florida convicts - Fox News
20/10/13 20:32 from Top Stories - Google News
ABC News'More arrests' expected after authorities capture 2 escaped Florida convictsFox NewsAuthorities say there will be “more arrests” after police caught two convicted murderers Saturday who were mistakenly released from priso...

» More arrests expected soon after Florida killers nabbed - WXIA-TV
20/10/13 19:47 from Top Stories - Google News
ABC NewsMore arrests expected soon after Florida killers nabbedWXIA-TV"I've learned to fight the good fight, because the rewards are so worth it," ... President Obama (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP). Obama confronts Obamacare...

» Friend tipped off police to whereabouts of escaped Florida inmates - CNN
20/10/13 15:59 from Top Stories - Google News
ABC NewsFriend tipped off police to whereabouts of escaped Florida inmatesCNN(CNN) -- A tip from an acquaintance of two convicted murderers who were mistakenly released from prison led to their arrests at a Florida motel, the commissione...

Friend tipped off police to whereabouts of escaped Florida inmates

By Steve Almasy. Greg Botelho and John Couwels, CNN
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Sun October 20, 2013
Your video will begin momentarily.

  • NEW: "We need to do a little bit more in authentication of documents," says judge
  • Men held on one count each of escape, due back in court Friday
  • The men were freed using forged documents, authorities say
  • Both had been sentenced to life without parole
(CNN) -- A tip from an acquaintance of one of two convicted murderers who were mistakenly released from prison led to their arrests at a Florida motel, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Sunday.
Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins were unarmed when they were taken into custody Saturday evening in Panama City, where they were waiting for their ride to arrive from Atlanta, Gerald Bailey said. It was unclear where the men expected to go, he said.
He said a "close associate" informed authorities that the men were in the area. Bailey said they were arrested by themselves without incident at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn. They had been in Bay County for only 48 hours, he said.
Walker and Jenkins will be held without bail and make their next court appearances Friday, a Bay County, Florida, judge said Sunday.
He said the two will be held with probable cause for one count each of escape.
There will be more arrests, Bailey predicted.
"They had to have had help (after their escape) -- and a lot of help -- to get where they were last night," he said.
The state Department of Corrections -- which mistakenly released the men, though it has insisted it was through no fault of its own -- said little about the arrests.

Convicted killers released by mistake
Authorities had been searching for Walker and Jenkins, both 34, after investigators discovered that the motions to reduce their respective sentences and court orders granting the requests had been forged.
Both killers had been convicted and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole within two years of their crimes.
In September 1998, Jenkins killed Roscoe Pugh Jr. during a home-invasion robbery attempt.
Six months later, Cedric Slater was gunned down on an Orlando street corner -- shot dead, a jury determined, by Walker.
Jenkins left the prison in North Carrabelle, in the Florida Panhandle, on September 27, and Walker left on October 8, according to authorities.
On Saturday, family members of both men denied any knowledge of the escape plans.
The legal-looking documents the men used contained bogus reproductions of several key players' signatures, including those of the Orlando-area State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton or the assistant state attorney and Judge Belvin Perry. They bore the seal of the Orange County clerk of court's office.
"They are excellent fakes," Perry said.
The judge said his signature is easy to find online on documents related to the high-profile trial of Casey Anthony. Anthony was acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
"People, particularly people with criminal minds, come up with ingenious ways to beat the system," Perry said. "They have nothing but time on their hands to think of things."
He stressed to CNN's Don Lemon on Sunday that he had nothing to do with the cases in question -- that they were assigned to other judges.
"When your name and documents that you've signed are plastered on the Internet for anybody and everybody to see, and someone with basic knowledge can paste and cut your signature, it doesn't surprise me that it did happen. It was just a matter of time," Perry said. "It shows that we need to do a little bit more in authentication of documents."
Prosecutors learned about what happened after a member of Walker's family contacted them, Ashton, the state attorney, said.
An October 8 letter from the Department of Corrections to Slater's mother, Evangelina Kearse, notified her a "court order and amended sentence caused (Walker's) sentence to expire."
"Please be aware that recent actions causing the release of this offender are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we apologize for the delay in this message," it said.
Mike Crews, secretary of the Department of Corrections, said he was confident in the procedure to release prisoners, but "obviously there was a gap somewhere."
From now on, prison officials will be required to check with the judge to make sure a release order is legitimate, he said.
Bailey said there have been two other instances in which inmates attempted to use false documents to gain release, but officials prevented them from escaping.
Both Walker and Jenkins appeared to play by the rules after their release. They went to the Orange County jail to register as felons -- Jenkins on September 30, Walker on October 11 -- as required by law.
Though their releases may have initially seemed legitimate, the two convicts later were classified as escapees.
CNN's Nick Valencia, John Zarrella, Kim Segal, Chelsea J. Carter and David Simpson contributed to this report.

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