Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

2 killers escape North Florida prison with bogus documents

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

So the guards at Franklin Correctional Institution in North Florida 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.

As prison officials, prosecutors and courts across the state scrambled to make sure no one else had been mistakenly released, police searched for the two men who already have a head start. Joseph Jenkins was let out Sept. 27, and Charles Walker was freed Oct. 8.

Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry said Thursday there were several red flags that should have attracted the attention of 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.

Jenkins, 34, is guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing and botched robbery of Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man.

State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton said he learned Jenkins had been released when Pugh's family contacted his office. They reviewed the paperwork and found that it was a fake, then notified law enforcement. Later, they discovered Walker's release documents were also bogus. The paperwork also forged prosecutors' signatures, Ashton said.

It wasn't clear exactly who dummied up the paperwork.

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."

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.

In a statement, Corrections Secretary Michael Crews said his agency was reviewing records to make sure no other inmates had been released in a similar fashion.

Florida state Rep. Darryl Rouson, the Democratic ranking member of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Legislature should review the agency's procedures.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he was focused on the manhunt.

"The first thing you do when something like this happens is solve the problem you have at hand," he said. "We need to apprehend these individuals, and that's what we're doing."

In both cases, the forged paperwork included motions from prosecutors to correct "illegal" sentences, accompanied by orders allegedly filed by Perry within the last couple of months. The orders granted a 15-year sentence. Perry is best known for presiding over the Casey Anthony murder trial in 2011.

Leesa Bainbridge, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Clerk of Courts, said the office moves thousands of pages of court documents a day and has no way of authenticating those that pass to other agencies.

"We're kind of like the post office," Bainbridge said. "It comes in and we move it along."

Bainbridge said officials in the clerk's office plan to talk about what measures, if any, can be put in place to make sure something similar doesn't happen again.

"This is something we take very seriously," she said. "We don't find this funny."

2 killers escape North Florida prison with bogus documents 10/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Storm routs Cleveland

    Storm

    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School

    Crime

    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)

    Politics

    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.