FDLE offering $10,000 reward in escaped-convicts case

6:26 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said in a news conference this afternoon that investigators are closing in on suspects involved in the escape of two convicted murderers from Franklin Correctional Institution.

"We have pinpointed suspects and are building a case," he said.

Bailey announced that FDLE was offering a $10,000 reward for information in the case, and Attorney General Pam Bondi was offering a similar reward.

He said the two escaped convicts, who were apprehended over the weekend at a Panama City Beach motel, are not cooperating.

"In law-enforcement terms, they have lawyered up," Bailey said.

Bailey said investigators have uncovered two other instances at FCI where inmates were trying to obtain fraudulent court documents to get out of prison early.

Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were serving life sentences at Franklin Correctional Facility in Carrabelle -- about 100 miles from the motel where they were nabbed Saturday. The forged paperwork indicated their sentences had been shortened to 15 years.

The men had each been convicted of unrelated murders -- Jenkins in 1998, Walker in 1999. Jenkins was released Sept. 27, Walker on Oct. 8.

In both cases, prison officials contacted the convicts' families to notify them in advance of the releases. Jenkins uncle, Henry Pearson, picked him up at prison; Walker's family couldn't make it, so prison officials put him on a bus.

Both men even registered as felons at an Orlando jail within days of their release, as required by law. They were photographed and fingerprinted, but since no outstanding warrants had been issued, they walked out without notice.

Bailey, in the news conference at FDLE headquarters in Tallahassee, said investigators have seized computers and printers from the FCI library, along with an iPad and mobile phone from the motel room in Panama City Beach. Forensics experts are scouring the equipment for clues.

He said that while tips are coming in, the investigation is far from complete.

"I can assure you that our investigation is moving forward," he said, "but I can also assure you we have a way to go."

Tallahassee Democrat

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