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Murderers registered as felons in Orange County after escape

12:54 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -Two escaped murderers in Florida registered as felons at the Orange County jail after authorities say they were mistakenly released from prison based on forged court documents.

According to criminal history records, Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker registered as felons three days after they were freed. Both had been serving life sentences, but forged documents duped prison officials and the court system.

Jail spokesman Allen Moore says the men filled out paperwork and were fingerprinted at the jail, which is next to the sheriff's office.

Jenkins was released from a Franklin County prison on Sept. 27 and Walker was released Oct. 8.

Family members of one of their victim's said they are terrified after the release, which has led to a manhunt in Florida.

Walker and Jenkins, both 34 and each convicted of murder in separate cases, were released within the past few weeks from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Franklin County.

Walker was convicted in the 1999 shooting death of 23-year-old Cedric Slater, and Jenkins was convicted in a 1998 killing of Roscoe Pugh, both in Orange County.

Officials were notified by a victim's family about the mistake Tuesday after the family member got an alert from the state's Victim Information and Notification Everyday system.

Learning that his father's killer was released from prison was the last thing Roscoe Pugh III wanted to hear.

"Our lives would be totally different," said Pugh. "I said that since I was 9 years old, my life would have been different if I hadn't saw it."

Crystal Pugh's husband was killed 15 years ago during a home invasion.

"My whole world came down on me. I thought I would not have to see them ever again," said Pugh. "And now I have to know he is free on the streets, it's frightening."

Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry said someone falsified paperwork with his signature that ordered the prisoners release.

"Criminals have a lot of time on their hands, 24 hours a day with nothing to do but think about ways to scam the system," said Perry.

Perry believes the signature was pasted from a legitimate order he signed.

"There's some connection between those two that hopefully we'll learn. Somebody had to help them. They alone could not do this in Franklin C.I.," said Perry.

On Wednesday, Perry ordered the forged motions to be vacated and the life sentences be reinstated. By that time, Walker and Jenkins had already been released from prison.

The documents also had the forged signatures of State Attorney Jeff Ashton and Assistant State Attorney James Altman.

Adam Pierce, an Orange County deputy, was shot and paralyzed in 2005 by another suspected prison forger.

He says inmates should not have access to computer equipment that has the capability to produce fraudulent court documents.

Jeffrey Forbes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for trying to kill Pierce. He was able to download and produce documents on his own while behind bars.

Pierce said Forbes admitted in an interview after he was caught that another inmate behind bars taught him how to do it, but it's unclear who.

Pierce said Forbes had actually succeeded in getting his sentence modified and was being transitioned for a 2016 release.

Earlier this year, the detective originally working on the case discovered what had happened and notified the state attorney's office.

According to Pierce, "The blame lies all over. Lack of oversight. And the Department of Corrections allowing inmates to have access to computers. I had a tense few months waiting to see what was going to happen."

The state attorney's office said it is in the process of prosecuting Forbes for the crimes.

It's still unclear who is to blame for what happened, but several people, including the governor, are concerned.

Gov. Rick Scott said finding the prisoners is mission No. 1.

"I know everyone in law enforcement is going to do everything they can to make sure we apprehend these individuals," said Scott. "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."

State attorney Jeff Ashton also said he is worried about the release and how to address it going forward.

"It is now clear the use of forged court documents to obtain release from prison is an ongoing threat which all law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, court clerks and prison officials must address," said Ashton.

The two agencies involved in the incident are not taking the blame and one is pointing the finger at the other.

"The Department of Corrections followed every procedure and protocol that we had in place and those inmates were released based on those court orders that we received," said Misty Cash with the Florida Department of Corrections. "This was not something that the department did incorrectly. We followed the procedures and protocols we had in place. The documents we had at face value were proper, correct and we followed them."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Clerk of Courts released a statement.

"Once we have reviewed what happened in this incident, we will look for opportunities to ensure that forgeries are brought to the attention of the authorities," said Leesa Bainbridge.

A statewide review of prison records is now underway.

WESH-TV

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