TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two convicted murderers released from a Florida prison based on forged court documents were captured Saturday, law enforcement officials said.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were arrested at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City, Fla., at about 6:40 p.m., the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement.
The pair were arrested without incident, according to the department. A desk clerk at the inn said authorities captured the fugitives quietly.
“During the investigation, information was developed to lead investigators to Bay County. An interview with an associate of an inmate helped pinpoint the men,” said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Plessinger would not elaborate on the associate’s relationship with the men. She said the two were unarmed when they were caught Saturday.
Authorities mounted a nationwide manhunt for Jenkins and Walker, who were released from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle, Fla., Sept. 27 and Oct. 8, respectively. Their releases were based on forged documents that indicated their life sentences had been reduced.
Both were serving life sentences without eligibility for parole. Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 in Orange County, and Jenkins of first-degree murder in 1998.
A court spokeswoman in Orange County, Fla., where the men were convicted, said earlier this week that someone signed the name of Chief Judge Belvin Perry of the state’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court on two official-looking documents granting their release.
Perry presided over the 2011 trial of Casey Anthony, the young mother acquitted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Perry told CNN earlier this week that his signature was easy to find online on documents related to the Anthony case.
The spokeswoman said the paperwork passed through that department and was forwarded to the state corrections department. The origin of the documents is unclear. The paperwork was not emailed to the clerk but may have been mailed or dropped off at the office, she said.
After their release, Jenkins and Walker even checked in as paroled inmates at the Orlando County Jail before vanishing.
Both men turned up separately at the jail, within 48 hours of their release, to be checked for outstanding arrest warrants and be photographed and fingerprinted for a registry of released felons, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jeff Williamson.
Such registration is required under Florida law.
Their erroneous release was discovered only this week, when a relative of one of their victims received a routine notice of the release.
Walker visited family members in Orlando after his escape. Earlier on Saturday, relatives of the fugitives held a news conference in that city, urging them to surrender.
State Attorney Jeff Ashton in Orlando said Thursday that a third inmate, Jeffrey Forbes, serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted a similar scheme last spring.
Forbes is now being prosecuted for forgery and attempted escape.