The relatives of victims murdered by two convicted killers want to know how the two men managed to scam their way out of a jail in Florida thanks to forged court documents.
Joseph Jenkins, 34, who was found guilty of first-degree murder in a botched home invasion in 1998, was released from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carabelle, Fla., on Sept. 27. Charles Walker, the other escapee, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999, was released from the same prison on Oct. 8. Both men had been sentenced to decades-long sentences.
Evangelina Kearse, whose son, Cedric Slater, was murdered by Walker, told NBC News she was stunned when she received a letter from the Department of Corrections informing her of Walker’s release.
“This letter, it was just unbelievable to me," she said. "I went into a state of shock. I was frightened.”
Kearse said she went to the State Attorney's Office to see what had happened and officials there were unaware of Walker's release. The falsified paperwork bore the signatures of a judge and members of the State Attorney's Office.
“I said, ‘well, how could this be, that somebody masterminded this through the court system and no one there knows anything about it?’” she said.
A massive manhunt is under way for the two convicted killers after authorities learned Tuesday of their release. A reward of $10,000 apiece is offered for information leading to their capture.
Florida Department of Corrections
Joseph Ivan Jenkins, left, and Charles Walker
"We never thought of the possibility of this happening due to he was sentenced to two 50-year sentences plus life," the children of Roscoe Pugh, who was murdered by Jenkins, said in a statement to TODAY.
For Roscoe Pugh III, the news of Jenkins’ release brought back dark memories of his father’s death15 years ago.
"Our lives would be totally different," Pugh told NBC Orlando affiliate WESH. "I said that since I was nine years old, my life would have been different if I hadn't saw it."
State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton said Pugh's family contacted his office, prompting them to review the paperwork and discover it was bogus, then notify law enforcement, reported The Associated Press.
"It is now clear that the use of forged court documents to obtain release from prison is an ongoing threat which all law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, court clerks and prison officials must address and stop," Ashton told the AP.
But the investigation is little comfort for Pugh’s wife, Crystal, who told WESH she was frightened to know Jenkins was walking free.
"My whole world came down on me. I thought I would not have to see them ever again," she said. "And now I have to know he is free on the streets. It's frightening.”
NBC News’ Elizabeth Chuck contributed to this report.
First published October 18 2013, 8:24 PM