Saturday, June 23, 2018
Public safety

Escaped killers used similar forgery as former Pinellas Jail inmate

Much like the two convicted killers who recently escaped a North Florida prison by forging a judge's signature, Nydeed Nashaddai freed himself from the Pinellas County Jail with phony paperwork.

And before the Florida Department of Law Enforcement pointed out that all three were serving time at the same prison, Pinellas-Pasco Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Thomas McGrady thought to himself, "Oh, no, not again."

In 2009, Nashaddai had a long rap sheet, five children, an admitted drug problem and was incarcerated in the Pinellas County Jail on charges of stealing and cashing a Largo man's checks. As he waited in jail, a seemingly authentic order for his release was issued demanding that "all charges filed and pending be dismissed."

At the bottom was what appeared to be McGrady's signature.

Nashaddai walked out of jail but was captured 16 hours later.

"The modern ways of taking someone's signature off any document to make it look like it's official is pretty easy to do," McGrady said Tuesday.

That leaves a couple of questions for investigators and the Department of Corrections: How do they prevent such mistakes in the future? And how many times has this happened?

Nashaddai, 48, is serving a 20-year sentence for his 16 hours of freedom, some of which has been at Franklin Correctional Institution, the same prison as convicted murderers Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker.

Jenkins was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. In 1998 he killed Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man, in a botched robbery. Jenkins was also serving life for a 1999 killing.

Pugh's family contacted prosecutors after they learned of Jenkins' release, which set off a manhunt.

It is evident, McGrady said, that Jenkins and Walker had help with their forgeries, which required someone to manipulate signatures and plant the false documents in court files.

While investigators promised more arrests, they stopped short of saying Jenkins and Walker conspired with Nashaddai.

But the way authorities said Jenkins and Walker forged their paperwork, which reduced their life sentences to 15 years, is similar to how Nashaddai escaped.

After receiving the false paperwork, the Department of Corrections processed the release orders and released Jenkins and Walker. As required by law, they registered as felons at the Orange County jail, where officers processed their fingerprints and took their photographs.

After being freed, Jenkins took time to plan a birthday party with his family; Walker attended church. But soon the two went on the lam.

Authorities arrested the pair at a Panama City Beach motel Saturday at 6:40 p.m., only hours after their families held a news conference begging for the two to turn themselves in.

The mistake has prompted the Department of Corrections to change its policy for early prisoner releases. Now, before a prisoner is freed, the Bureau of Admissions and Release says it requires the sentencing judge's verification.

Another helpful update, McGrady said, might come when the Pinellas and Pasco courts go digital and "all of our judges' signatures will be somewhat encrypted," he said.

When asked if in the paperless future authorities would be trading forgers for hackers, McGrady shrugged, saying, "There is always that risk."

Times staff writer Claire Wiseman and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

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