ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A statement released Thursday by State Attorney Jeff Ashton revealed the State Attorney's Office didn't know two convicted killers had been mistakenly released until a victim's family contacted
Joseph Jenkins, 34, and Charles Walker, 34, were in prison following murder convictions. Walker is suppose to be serving a life sentence.
Ashton said Thursday a relative of victim Roscoe Pugh notified his office this week that Jenkins was out of prison.
The release started at the Orange County Clerk of Courts Office, which accepted forged documents as authentic and then passed them along to the Florida Department of Corrections, which acted on them.
A quick investigation by Ashton's office found the release of Jenkins and forgeries of multiple signatures.
Ashton said he later learned that Walker had obtained his release after a forged motion and a forged order granting the motion were filed in his court case, as well.
Ashton said he issued an
officewide email to his prosecutors, directing them to immediately review records to ascertain whether anyone they prosecuted who was sent to prison had also filed similar forged documents or whether there was any other suspicious court activity.
So far, no additional instances have been found.
The Orange County Clerk of Courts Office, Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are trying to find out who is responsible for the forged documents.
Jenkins' case file shows forged documents trying to get him out of his life sentence were first filed in 2011.
The signature for Ashton, then a state prosecutor, was forged onto a bogus motion, authorities said. It happened while Ashton was busy working on the Orange County murder case against Casey Anthony.
Circuit Judge Rene Roche's signature was then forged on the bogus order to release Jenkins from state prison.
When Jenkins wasn't released, the records show he sent a letter from the Franklin Correctional Institution, in Carrabelle, Fla., to the Orange County Clerk of Courts with copies of the bogus motion and order on State Attorney's Office letterhead.
That attempt, too, failed.
Then, earlier this year, someone tried another forgery attempt, again on Jenkins' behalf, this time using Chief Judge Belvin Perry's signature.
The final attempt was successful, and Jenkins was released from prison on Sept. 27.
"I received a call Tuesday afternoon, as I was leaving work, from State Attorney Jeff Ashton saying there was a problem," said Perry.
The clerk's records show Walker's bogus paperwork, using Perry's and prosecutor Jim Altman's signatures, was filed on Oct. 7, and the next day, Walker was released from the same state prison that released Jenkins.
The bogus motions for Jenkins and Walker were titled "Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence." They were made to appear as if the state was filing the motion to reduce their sentences.
Jenkins was serving life for the 1998 killing of Roscoe Pugh in a botched drug deal.
Jenkins has a lengthy rap sheet for theft and
drug-related crimes. He also has several arrests for violent crimes, like shooting into an occupied vehicle and armed robbery
Charles Walker shot and killed Cedric Slater in 1999. At the time, Walker told investigators Slater had bullied him, and the shooting was meant to scare him off.
Walker's previous arrests included cocaine possession, aggravated
assault and burglary charges.
"In my 35 years in the judicial system, I have never seen the state of Florida file a motion to correct an illegal sentence," said Perry.
Perry told Channel 9 that the false documents had problems. However, the one thing that was correct was Perry's signature. He said he believes whoever forged
it cut and pasted his signature from other public documents
"It is quite evident that someone forged a court document, filed a motion, and that someone, with the aid of a computer, lifted my signature off previous signed
documents -- which are public reports -- affixed that to the document, sent it to the Clerk's Office. It was processed and forwarded to DOC, and the defendant ended up being released," said Perry.
Perry said changes have already been made to prevent someone from getting away with this in the same way again. He said he wouldn't elaborate on the changes because he didn't want to give anyone an opportunity to find a way around the new system.
Eyewitness News has confirmed federal authorities have joined the massive manhunt for Jenkins and Walker.
On Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service activated its Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force to help track down Jenkins and Walker.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office issued a warning to the public.
"(The public) should be concerned and (Jenkins and Walker) are dangerous. That's already been proven," said Capt. Angelo Nieves, of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Channel 9's Marion Boone went to several homes looking for Pugh's relatives. He found a family living at one of Pugh's former addresses in Orlando's Parramore neighborhood.
"They shouldn't have let them out. They should've looked at that more," said a resident of the house.
The resident said the family is worried that one of the men might come back.
"I hope they don't come back here, because they don't live here no more. They (law enforcement officials) say they're in area. They feel like they're in the area. I hope they're not, and I hope they catch them and they don't come back here," the resident said.
Sources told Boone that investigators believe Walker is back in the Orlando area.