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Forged docs led to release of two killers in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — At first glance, the paperwork ordering the release of two convicted murderers serving life sentences in a Florida prison looked legitimate.

So the guards at Franklin Correctional Institution put one of the men on a bus and opened the gates for the other to ride away with family. Authorities now say prison officials were duped by the court documents, which included a fake motion from a prosecutor and a judge’s forged signature.

The release led to a manhunt across Central Florida, but the inmates have a significant head start. Joseph Jenkins was let out Sept. 27, and Charles Walker was freed Oct. 8. Both are 34.

Chief Circuit Judge Belvin Perry said Thursday there were several red flags that should have attracted attention from the court clerk’s office or the Corrections Department. Namely, it’s rare for a judge to order a sentencing reduction, and even more uncommon for the request to come from prosecutors.

It wasn’t clear exactly who wrote the paperwork or how authorities discovered the error. Local, state and prison officials were searching for the men.

“These two individuals are out. They shouldn’t be, and we want to get them back in custody,” Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Angelo Nieves said Thursday. “This shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and our concern is to get these individuals into custody.”

Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing of an Orlando man. Jenkins and his cousin were convicted in the shooting death of Roscoe Pugh in a botched robbery.

Upon hearing of Jenkins’ release, his former attorney, Bob Wesley, said he was sure “it wasn’t a cunning master plan.”

Wesley, now the public defender for metro Orlando, recalled his client’s crime and said Jenkins broke into a home of someone he knew and was “not smart enough to pull his ski mask down.”

Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in a 1999 slaying in Orange County. He told investigators that 23-year-old Cedric Slater was bullying him and he fired three shots intending to scare him.

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