Two Florida Murderers Escaped from Prison By Forging Release Papers

This week Florida prison authorities accidentally released and paid for bus tickets for two convicted murderers who were supposed to be serving life sentences without possibility of parole.

The convicts managed to submit forged release documents to the Department of Corrections and even registered as felons with the state, as required by Florida law, before fleeing to a Panama City motel.

As a manhunt heated up in Florida this weekend, a "close associate" told police that Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, both 34, were hiding out at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City. Yesterday, police found them there, unarmed, and took them both back into custody.

Jenkins, convicted of first-degree murder in 1998, was released from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carabelle on Sept. 27. Walker, convicted of second-degree murder in 1999, was released from the same prison on Oct. 8.

Florida officials only became aware of the mens' release when Walker's victim's mother received a letter from the Department of Corrections notifying her of Walker's release, a standard component of the prisoner release process.

"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," part of the letter said.

The mother notified the state attorney's office on Tuesday, sparking the manhunt.

The men were hiding out at the Panama City motel waiting for a "transport" to another location, possibly Alabama.

In the meantime, investigators are working on a statewide review of release orders to determine if other felons have forged the documents. Apparently Jenkins had tried the scheme once before in 2011, but his forged document got flagged. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner said yesterday that the men may have paid as much as $8,000 each for the fake papers.

[image via Orange County Sheriff's Office]