By Brendan Farrington
TALLAHASSEE, FLA.: Two convicted killers who were freed from prison by phony documents were captured together without incident Saturday night at a Panama City motel, authorities said.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were taken into custody about 6:40 p.m. at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn. They were arrested several hours after their family members held a news conference urging the men to turn themselves in. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not immediately release any other details.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in the Panhandle before they were released. The bogus paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge’s forged signature, duped prison officials and reduced their sentences to 15 years.
Jenkins was released Sept. 27, and Walker was set free Oct. 8.
Family members and friends of the men said Saturday they initially thought their releases were legitimate and spent time with them, planning a birthday party for one and going to church with the other.
Both men went to an Orlando jail after their release and registered as felons, as required by law. They filled out paperwork, had their photographs taken and were even fingerprinted. By doing this, authorities said they didn’t raise any alarms.
Henry Pearson, who is Jenkins’ uncle and father figure, said he brought Jenkins clothes when he picked him up from prison last month and drove him to see his mother and grandmother.
Pearson planned a birthday party at his home for Jenkins a few days later, but he never showed up. Pearson said he was completely shocked to learn Wednesday that Jenkins was not supposed to be out of prison.
He said he heard about the captures while watching TV and then a law enforcement agent called his home unexpectedly and let Jenkins talk to his wife.
Walker’s mother, Lillie Danzy, said the family thought their prayers had been answered when she got a call saying Walker was being released. There wasn’t time to pick him up, so he hopped a bus to central Florida.
Walker was at church last Sunday. His mother said they have been cooperating with authorities and made no attempts to hide him.
Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing and botched robbery of Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man. It was Pugh’s family that contacted the prosecutor’s office last week and told them Jenkins had been released, setting off a manhunt.
The prosecutor’s office also discovered Walker had been mistakenly released. Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1999 Orange County slaying of 23-year-old Cedric Slater.
There are still questions about who created the legitimate-looking documents.