TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 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.
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. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the prisoners were not cooperating.
"In law enforcement terms, they've lawyered up," Bailey said. "But we will find the details of what led to these escapes without their help, but should they choose to cooperate, we will have the answers that we need, the answers that we demand sooner rather than later."
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 cellphone 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."
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.