Tallahassee, Florida - Two convicted killers serving life sentences without the possibility of parole are on the loose after forged documents allowed them to be released from a prison in north Florida.
The Florida Department of Corrections released the inmates from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle based on bogus court documents. So far, no one knows how the fake documents got into the official paper stream between the courts and the Department of Corrections.
The forged documents were filed with the Orange County Clerk of Courts office and delivered to the Department of Corrections. They included forged signatures of an Orlando assistant state attorney, Judge Belvin Perry and included the county seal.
That's the normal procedure, and the documents looked legitimate, so the prison released Joseph Jenkins on Sept. 27 and Charles Walker on Oct. 8.
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Now the finger-pointing is under way. The Department of Corrections insists it did not make mistakes and simply carried out the court's orders.
"In the case of Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, the Department was notified that these inmates were deemed to have fulfilled their obligation and sentence, and they were not to be held in the Department's custody any longer. The Department verified the release information with the Clerk's Office prior to the start of the release process and was given confirmation these inmates were to be released immediately," said Corrections Secretary Michael Crews.
That explanation does not offer any comfort to the people of Carrabelle. The release of convicted murderers scared some residents there.
Harry Tysinger said his wife told him to make sure all the doors were locked in their house.
"Because I was thinking, where would they go? There are very few places to go around here except to somebody's house and there are a number of houses here that are not occupied all the time. So I was concerned about that, in fact, there are several of them in my neighborhood."
Tysinger shook his head trying to understand how the department was tricked.
"I would've thought that they'd have controls in place about situations like this, but I guess they're going to have to do something else now."
The Department of Corrections says it is working closely with state and local police to try to find Jenkins and Walker.
The department and Orange County State Attorney's Office are also double checking to determine if any other inmates have been released due to forged court documents.
Gov. Rick Scott said he intends to get to the bottom of the problem.
"Right now we have to deal with this issue and once we resolve this and apprehend these individuals, then we'll find out what we need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again."