Two killers, freed by mistake, are caught
The Associated Press | October 20,2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two convicted killers who were freed from prison by phony documents were captured together without incident Saturday night at a Panama City motel.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were taken into custody about 6:40 p.m. at Coconut Grove Motor Inn. They were apprehended just a couple of hours after their family members held a news conference urging the men to turn themselves in.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not immediately release any other details about their capture or investigation.
Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing and botched robbery of Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man. It was Pugh’s family that contacted the prosecutor’s office earlier this week and told them Jenkins had been released, setting off a manhunt.
The prosecutor’s office also discovered Walker had been mistakenly released. Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1999 Orange County slaying of 23-year-old Cedric Slater.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences.
The bogus paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge’s forged signature, reduced their sentences to 15 years.
Jenkins was released Sept. 27; Walkeron Oct. 8.
Family members and friends of the men said Saturday they initially thought their release was legitimate and spent time with them, even planning a birthday party for one.
Three days after both men were released, they went to an Orlando jail and registered as felons, as required by law.
They filled out paperwork, had their photographs taken and were even fingerprinted. By doing this, authorities said they didn’t raise any alarms.
Henry Pearson, who was described as Jenkins’ father figure, said he brought Jenkins clothes when he picked him up from prison and drove him to see his mother and grandmother.
Pearson planned a birthday party at his home for Jenkins a few days later, but he never showed up. Jenkins turned 34 on Oct. 1.
There are still questions about who created the legitimate-looking documents that exposed gaps in Florida’s judicial system.
In light of the errors, the Florida Corrections Department changed the way it verifies early releases.