US & Canada

Accidentally freed Florida murderers recaptured

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Media captionJoseph Jenkins and Charles Walker have been recaptured at a motel, as Wendy Urquhart reports

Two convicted murderers who used forged documents to trick their way out of prison in Florida have been recaptured, US officials say.

Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were seized without incident at a motel in Panama City Beach, Florida.

The men, who were serving life sentences, had been freed from separate jails after officials were fooled by fake papers reducing their terms.

The prison authorities have pledged to tighten up their early-release policy.

'Red flags' missed

The two convicts were arrested at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn on Saturday evening, the authorities said.

They were detained hours after relatives held a news conference urging them to turn themselves in.

Jenkins had walked out on 27 September and registered as felon three days later at a jail in Orange County, Florida, about 300 miles (480km) from the prison where he was serving his sentence.

Walker had been set free on 8 October from the same prison and registered on 11 October.

The falsified documents were not identified until several weeks after the first convict's release. It is not clear who provided the bogus release documents.

The two prisoners had apparently signed on to maintain the ruse that they had been released early by a judge.

Released felons are required to register as they re-enter the public, otherwise a warrant is issued for their arrest.

The registration process includes fingerprinting, images of which are uploaded to Florida police records.

Officials also verify that felons do not have any outstanding warrants.

Release documents bearing the forged signature of a sitting judge had been processed through standard channels this autumn, officials said.

Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry said there were several red flags that should have alerted the court clerk's office or the corrections department: notably, how rare it was for a sentence reduction to come from prosecutors.

On Friday, Florida Corrections Secretary Michael Crews said prisons would now verify with judges, not just court clerks, before releasing prisoners early.

Authorities have been reviewing other releases based on modified court orders received from Orange County, to ensure no other inmates have been prematurely freed.

Jenkins was serving a life sentence for the 1998 fatal shooting of a father of six during a botched robbery.

Walker was sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 shooting of a 23-year-old man. Walker said he did not mean to kill the man but fired three shots in warning because the man had been bullying him.

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