Family members of escaped Florida inmates plead for their surrender
POSTED: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 2:14pm
UPDATED: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 2:15pm
(CNN) -- — Family members of convicted murderers Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins pleaded for the men to surrender and end a Florida-wide manhunt that was launched after it was discovered they used forged documents to gain their release.
Authorities have been searching for Walker and Jenkins, both 34, after investigators discovered forged motions to reduce their respective sentences and forged court orders granting the requests.
"We just want you to surrender yourself to someone you trust who will bring you back in safely," Walker's mother, Lillie Danzy, said at a news conference outside the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Orlando.
Jenkins' uncle, Henry Pearson, echoed the plea, calling on the men to give their families some peace.
Both families have denied any knowledge in the escape plan, telling investigators and reporters the first they learned of the releases were in telephone calls from the Franklin Correctional Institution with news they could pick up their family member.
Danzy appears to have questioned the call, telephoning the prison twice to make sure the call was legitimate.
"The family believed their prayers had been answered," a spokeswoman for Danzy said.
The two men, according to family members, disappeared shortly after their return.
In September 1998, Jenkins killed Roscoe Pugh Jr. during a home-invasion robbery attempt.
Six months later, Cedric Slater was gunned down on an Orlando street corner -- shot dead, a jury determined, by Walker.
Both killers were convicted and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole within two years of their crime. While it's not known whether they knew each other, they were at the same prison in North Carrabelle in Florida's Panhandle.
Jenkins left there on September 27, and Walker left on October 8, according to authorities. They had motions indicating the sentences had been reduced, as well as court orders granting the request. Investigators later discovered these documents were forged.
The legal-looking documents contained bogus reproductions of several key players' signatures, including those of the Orlando-area State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton or the assistant state attorney and Judge Belvin Perry. They bore the seal of the Orange County clerk of court's office.
Prosecutors first learned about what happened was after they were contacted by a member of Walker's family, Ashton said.
An October 8 letter from the Department of Corrections to Slater's mother, Evangelina Kearse, notified her a "court order and amended sentence caused (Walker's) sentence to expire."
"Please be aware that recent actions causing the release of this offender are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we apologize for the delay in this message," it said.
Both Walker and Jenkins appeared to play by the rules after their release. They both went to the Orange County jail to register as felons -- Jenkins on September 30, Walker on October 11 -- as required by law.
While their releases may have initially seemed legitimate and innocuous, by Friday evening, the two convicts had been classified as escapees.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said both are considered "dangerous individuals" and -- by virtue of some "legitimate spottings" -- are thought to be in the Orlando area.