PANAMA CITY BEACH — Back in custody after using forged documents to escape their life sentences, two convicted killers were being grilled 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 were captured Saturday night at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City Beach, a tourist area of putt-putt courses and go-cart tracks. Hours earlier, their families 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 FDLE 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. "The documents themselves looked good, they looked official," Bailey said.
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.