Nightly News   |  October 18, 2013

Victim’s mother: ‘I almost passed out’ after murderers set free

The relatives of victims murdered by two fugitives want answers as to how the two men scammed their way of jail. Now a big manhunt is underway, and an investigation into how the criminals used fraudulent documents that reduced their decades-long sentences. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> investigators are struggling to explain how two convicted killers -- one sentenced to 100 years -- simply walked out of prison using forged documents. at this hour the convicts are free and the families of the victims are demanding answers. nbc's mark potter joins us from the courthouse in orlando with details on the story. mark, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. it uh came to light here at the orange county courthouse . an incredible scam that led to the release of two cold-blooded killers, each freed decades before they would have completed their sentences. the two fugitives are charles walker and joseph jenkins , both serving decades-long sentences for murder and other crimes. release ed from prison after that's fraudulent documents were filed in a court clerk 's office, reducing their sentences. the paperwork had the forged signature uh of judge belvin perry who presided over the high profile casey anthony trial.

>> it's ingenious. a breakout without having to breakout.

>> reporter: after the inmates walked free through the doors of the prison 11 days apart, they each made their way 300 miles south to their hometown of orlando. they walked into the county jail there to register as re-elised felons listing local addresses. the release might have gone unnoticed if it wasn't for this woman who alerted authorities.

>> i almost passed out, really.

>> reporter: this is the mother of cedric slater who was murderer ed by walker. she got this letter from the department of corrections note t identifying her that walker had gone free. outraged she showed the letter to prosecutors.

>> i said, how could this be that somebody master mind s this through the court system and no one knows anything about it?

>> reporter: stunned officials launched a manhunt interviewing friends and family and setting up stakeouts.

>> all of the information we have at this time indicates that the individuals are here in our local area. we just need to find them at this point.

>> reporter: prosecutors have been searching their records to see if any other inmates got out early using phony paperwork. that almost happened with another inmate whose planned early are elise wrelease was stopped by an alert detective checking files. from now on all order ers for early release must be verified. ann?

>> mark potter , thank you.