ORLANDO, Fla. — Two escaped murderers in Florida registered as felons at the Orange County Jail after authorities said they were mistakenly released from prison based on forged court documents.
According to criminal history records, Joseph Jenkins, 34, and Charles Walker, 34, 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 into letting them out.
On Friday, Sheriff Jerry Demings also said the men are believed to be in central Florida.
Late Friday evening the Sheriff's Office announced that a contribution from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement boosted the reward for information leading to the capture of Jenkins and Walker to $10,000 each.
Jail spokesman Allen Moore said the men filled out paperwork and were fingerprinted at the jail, which is next to the Sheriff's Office. The jail said it was a routine procedure and at that time, both inmates would have been checked for outstanding warrants, but since there weren't any, they were sent on their way.
The Sheriff's Office, state law enforcement and prison officials are now searching for the men.
Jenkins was released from a Franklin County prison on Sept. 27 and Walker was released Oct. 8.
Investigators said tips are pouring in regarding the prisoners' whereabouts, and they hope that the tips will lead to the convicted killers.
A statement released Thursday by State Attorney Jeff Ashton revealed the State Attorney's Office didn't know the convicted killers had been mistakenly released until a victim's family contacted the office.
Chief Judge Belvin 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.
On Friday, the Department of Corrections announced they, too, would be implementing new changes by adding a verification process before releasing or changing any inmate's sentence.
In the past, the department would check the clerk's website for verification that an order had been filed. Moving forward, a judge will need to verify the release documents before an inmate is released.
Orange-Osceola public defender Bob Wesley, who represented Jenkins in his murder case, told Channel 9 Jenkins is not sophisticated enough to have cooked up the plan on his own.
Anyone with information to the inmates' whereabouts is asked to contact authorities.