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Sunday
Oct202013

Escaped Florida Killers Surrender at Panama City Hotel

Danita Delimont

(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) -- Two convicted murderers who escaped from a Florida prison by using forged release papers surrendered Saturday at a Panama City hotel where they were surrounded by police, law enforcement official said.

Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were apprehended without incident at the at Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City, the The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Saturday evening.

The recapture of the two men came just hours after family members of the two held a news conference to plead with them to surrender.

Jenkins was released on Sept. 27 from the Franklin Correctional Institution. On Oct. 8, Walker was released from the same facility, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Both releases came as a result of forged documents ordering reduced sentences for the two.

The team searching for the two fugitives -- which included members of the Bay County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, the FDLE, the Florida Department of Corrections and the Panama City Police Department -- developed information two days ago the two men were staying on Panama City Beach.

Saturday afternoon, law enforcement officials said, they narrowed the search to room 227 at the Coconut Grove Motel.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, about 20 members of the task force surrounded the room and police told Jenkins and Walker to come out. About a minute later, both men came out with their hands in the air and they were taken into custody without incident.

Both men were then taken to the Bay County Jail.

It was not known whether the men -- who were serving time for separate crimes -- worked together to escape the prison, but authorities were investigating whether they got help from someone to forge the paperwork necessary to be released.

Jenkins, 34, was in jail on a 1998 first-degree murder conviction. He killed a father of six.

Charles Walker, also 34, was serving a life sentence for a second-degree murder. He shot a 23-year-old man in 1999.

Just three days after their respective releases, both men brazenly went to the corrections department to register as ex-felons, officials said.

"They come to the booking lobby where they are finger printed and a Voluntary Criminal Registrant form is filled out," a spokeswoman for the corrections department told ABC News in an email.

The sheriff's deputy in the lobby checks for wants and warrants and if there are none, the form is completed and taken to the sheriff's office. Officials do not believe there is video from when Jenkins and Walker each registered because that area does not have cameras.

At their news conference Saturday, the two men's families said they believed at first that everything was legitimate about them getting out of prison early, because they had been contacted by the prison that their relatives were scheduled for immediate emergency release.

Henry Pierson, who was described by officials as Jenkins' father figure, said he received a phone call from Franklin Correctional Institution on Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. informing him Jenkins had been released.

Pierson said he drove six hours to pick Jenkins up from jail instead of sending him home on a bus, where the man walked out in the clothes he brought for him to wear.

Once they returned home, Pierson took Jenkins to see his grandmother and his mother before heading back to his home.

Jenkins' family planned a birthday party for him on Oct. 1, but he failed to show up, Pierson said. No one had seen him since.

"I am asking you, Joseph Jenkins, turn yourself in to the appropriate authorities so we can end this episode of our lives," Pierson said. "We love you, and we thank you."

Walker took the bus back to Orlando upon his release, according to his family's attorney, Rhonda Peterson. He spent a week with his family, going out in public and even attending church on Sunday, she said.

Walker's mother, Lillie Danzy, fought back tears as she begged her son to stop evading officials.

"We love you. We believe in you. We want you to surrender yourself to someone you trust who will bring you back in safely," she said. "I know who you are, you know who you are. I just want you home safely soon. Please come home."

Jenkins' victim was Roscoe Pugh, whose family was shocked by the news that Jenkins was released.

"It's very scary," Pugh's widow, Crystal Pugh, "If he doesn't come after my family, it's possible he will kill someone else."

Evagelina Kearse said she was fearful that her son's killer was on the loose.

"Concerned for my safety? Yes I am, because he knows where I live," she said of Walker. "He wound down the window and emptied a 9 millimeter in my son."

The judge whose name is on the forged documents is Belvin Perry, Orange County chief judge, who presided over the Casey Anthony case. The judge's signature was forged in the paperwork calling for reduced sentences for the convicted killers.

Perry told ABC News he believes the killers had help outside the prison.

"They cut and pasted my signature and affixed it to the order," he said. "They had to have outside help, because in one of those documents, it was actually filed here in the courthouse."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio