At least six inmates in Florida have used forged documents in attempts to escape from prison, including two killers who were mistakenly freed because of the paperwork, authorities said Tuesday. NBC 6's Justin Finch reports.
At least seven inmates in Florida have used forged documents in attempts to escape from prison, including two killers who were mistakenly freed because of the paperwork, authorities said Tuesday.
Police said they were looking at several suspects in the investigation of the escape of Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, but so far they have made no arrests.
"Again, we have pinpointed suspects and are building the case," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
"I can assure that our investigation is moving forward, but I can also assure you that we have a way to go," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Bailey added that the prisoners were not cooperating.
"In law enforcement terms, they've lawyered up," Bailey said. "Should they choose to cooperate, we will have the answers we need, the answers we demand sooner than later."
Jenkins and Walker were taken to the Orange County Jail on Tuesday and were placed in maximum custody at two separate locations, authorities said. It's the same jail where they registered as felons in the days after they were released from prison. Hours later, they were ordered back into the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Jenkins and Walker were let out of a Panhandle prison on Sept. 27 and Oct. 8, respectively, because of fake paperwork that reduced their life sentences to 15 years, authorities said. Jenkins had tried to escape using bogus documents before, Bailey said.
Jenkins and Walker were captured Saturday at a Panama City motel.
Authorities found an iPad and cell phone there, and they were reviewing them for evidence. Police also want to know how the men got to the motel and who was coming from Atlanta to take them somewhere else.
Besides the forged documents, forensic examiners were looking at computers and printers seized from the prison. So far, there is no indication that any Department of Corrections workers helped the inmates with their escape, but investigators are still looking at any possibilities of an inside job, Bailey said.
"There is no hard evidence that has happened," he said. "If there were, there would be an arrest."
Bailey, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Crime Stoppers of the Big Bend said Tuesday that they and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are offering up to $20,000 to those who provide tips on the release of Jenkins and Walker.
"The illegal operation to help release two murderers who were serving life sentences involved more than just the prisoners, and we have partnered with the Big Bend Crime Stoppers to provide up to $10,000 to those who come forward with information that leads to the arrest of those who helped the inmates. This money is in addition to the up to $10,000 that FDLE is offering," Bondi said in a statement.
The mistaken release led the Corrections Department to change its policy for early prisoner releases. It also caused the chief judge in the judicial circuit that covers Orange and Osceola counties in metro Orlando to change how orders are filed in the clerks of courts offices. The forged paperwork that led to the release of Jenkins and Walker was filed in the Orange County Clerk of Courts office.
Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry signed an order Monday that prohibits judicial orders from being accepted at drop-off boxes. His order also requires judicial assistants to keep a log of all orders to change an inmate's prison sentence.
When the clerk's office gets an order to change a sentence, the clerk must verify with the judge or judicial assistant that the order was issued, according to the new measures.
"Our investigation is moving forward on two fronts. The first is to indentify the creators of the fraudulent documents. The second is to track the documents through the system and determine who, if anyone, helped guide the documents through the Orange County Office of the Clerk of Court," Bailey said.