Two Florida men convicted on murder charges were mistakenly released from a prison with forged documents, authorities said. Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker walked out separately in the Florida Panhandle in late September and early October.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement learned about the mistake Tuesday.
“These two individuals are out. They shouldn’t be, and we want to get them back in custody,” sheriff’s office spokesman Angelo Nieves said. “This shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and our concern is to get these individuals into custody.”
Walker was serving a life sentence on a second-degree murder conviction stemming from a 1999 slaying in Orange County. Jenkins was serving a life sentence for a 1998 first-degree murder conviction in the killing of an Orlando man.
The Florida Department of Corrections says the men were released from the Carrabelle prison according to protocol. However, their releases were ordered based on forged documents filed through the Orange County Clerk of Courts to alter their sentences.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary said state corrections officials acted on the court documents, not realizing they were falsified. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has launched an investigation into the falsified documents.
“I don’t know how it happened,” Cary said.
In a statement, Corrections Secretary Michael Crews said his agency is “conducting a vigorous and thorough review of releases that were based on modified court orders received from Orange County to ensure that there are no other inmates who have been released based on falsified documents.”
State and local authorities are searching for the men and investigating how they got released.
“The top priority of the department is the safety of Florida families and we’ll continue working with law enforcement to ensure these men are returned to custody,” Crews said.