- Associated Press - Thursday, October 17, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — At first glance, the paperwork ordering the release of two convicted murderers serving life sentences in a Florida prison looked legitimate.

So the guards at Franklin Correctional Institution put one of the men on a bus and opened the gates for the other to ride away with family. Authorities now say prison officials were duped by the court documents, which included a fake motion from a prosecutor and a judge’s forged signature.

The release led to a manhunt across Central Florida, but the inmates have a significant head start. Joseph Jenkins was let out Sept. 27, and Charles Walker was freed Oct. 8. Both are 34.


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Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry said Thursday there were several red flags that should have attracted attention from the court clerk’s office or the Corrections Department. Namely, it’s rare for a judge to order a sentencing reduction, and even more uncommon for the request to come from prosecutors.

“One of the things we have never taken a close look at is the verification of a particular document to make sure it’s the real McCoy,” said Perry, whose name was forged on the paperwork. “I knew that that was always a possibility, but you never want that possibility occurring in the way that it did.”

It wasn’t clear exactly who wrote the paperwork or how authorities discovered the error. Local, state and prison officials were searching for the men.


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“These two individuals are out. They shouldn’t be, and we want to get them back in custody,” Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesman Angelo Nieves said.

Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing of an Orlando man. Jenkins and his cousin were convicted in the shooting death of Roscoe Pugh in a botched robbery.

Upon hearing of Jenkins‘ release, his former attorney, Bob Wesley, said he was sure “it wasn’t a cunning master plan.”

Wesley, now the public defender for metro Orlando, recalled his client’s crime and said Jenkins broke into a home of someone he knew and was “not smart enough to pull his ski mask down.”

Jenkins‘ cousin Angelo Pearson was also sentenced to life and is serving time at a different Florida prison.

Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in a 1999 slaying in Orange County. He told investigators that 23-year-old Cedric Slater was bullying him and he fired three shots intending to scare him.

Walker’s then-defense attorney, Robert LeBlanc, now a judge in Orlando, refused to comment.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash didn’t know which man had been dropped off at the bus station, but said prison officials routinely work with inmates who are getting out.

“If they need a bus ticket, we’ll provide that for them,” she said.

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