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Brazen prison escapes in Florida continue to raise questions

October 18, 2013|By Michael Muskal

Two convicted murderers who escaped from a Florida prison have given new meaning to the word chutzpah by registering with local officials and having their fingerprints taken after their release using forged documents.

The inmates went back to Orange County in Florida and registered as convicted felons and had their fingerprints taken in a required move that seems designed to decrease official concern about their actions.

State officials are investigating the entire chain of events while law enforcement is seeking to recapture the men, Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker. The pair, who were serving life sentences in prison, separately and mistakenly were released from the same prison, and are believed to still be in the central Florida area, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Friday.

The cases came to light this week, long after the men were freed from state prison in the Florida Panhandle, about 300 miles from Orange County, where they had been convicted of murder. Jenkins, 34, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a 1998 botched robbery. Walker, also 34, was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1999 death of a man who Walker said was bullying him.

While in prison, another person or persons created forged documents that showed the sentences had been reduced, according to officials.

According to Judge Belvin Perry, whose signature was forged on the documents, the inmates had to have had help from outside of the prison.

“Anyone with any computer skills can look at a document and take that document off of the Internet, lift the signature and paste it somewhere else,” he told NBC's "Today" show this week. “It's very ingenious. It's a breakout without having to break out.”

When prison officials received the forged documents, they released the men, who then returned to Orange County for the usual processing. Walker arrived on Oct. 11 and Jenkins on Sept. 30, Christina Grover, a public information officer for the Orange County jail system, told the Los Angeles Times.

Both men filled out the usual forms for career felons and were fingerprinted, she said. Both were checked for outstanding warrants and there were none since they had been released properly, though, mistakenly.

After those formalities, they were free to leave and they did, Grover said.

The escapes have raised a number of questions that are being examined by state police and corrections officials. Legislators are also concerned and have called for their own probes.

Officials are looking at a third case involving a man who was serving time for the attempted murder of a police officer. That case also involved forged documents, but the convict’s escape plan was thwarted earlier this year.


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