Joseph Jenkins, left and Charles Walker were mistakenly released from prison in Franklin County, Florida. Photo: AP
Panama City Beach, Florida: With two convicted killers back in police custody, authorities in the US state of Florida have turned their attention to finding out who made the phony court documents that led to the two being released mistakenly.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were captured on Saturday night without incident at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City Beach, a tourist area. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference in Orlando - 480 kilometres away - urging them to surrender.
"While the manhunt is over, there is still a lot that we do not know. I can tell you, there will be more arrests," Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner Gerald Baily told a news conference on Sunday.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in Florida's northwestern Panhandle before they walked free without anyone realising the paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge's forged signature, was bogus. The documents seemingly reduced their life sentences to 15 years.
Mr Bailey said authorities will be interviewing the two prisoners all day. "We will be backtracking to those who helped carry out this fraud and along the way we will be looking closely at anyone who may have helped harbour these fugitives."
A woman who answered the phone at the motel said she saw police coming and they went into room 227. After authorities left, the parking lot of the two-storey motel was mostly empty. Mr Bailey said the men had been in the area for two days.
The two prisoners had not been travelling together, but hooked up once word of the forgeries became public and travelled from Orlando to Panama City, said Frank Chiumento, chief of the US Marshals Service for Florida and the Caribbean.
Mr Chiumento said on Sunday that Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker knew their time on the run was limited once their ruse had been uncovered. They were under surveillance for about two and a half days, and the men were surprised when authorities finally knocked on their motel door.
Mr Bailey said authorities were able to track down the men through interviews with people who visited them at the prison, called them there or made deposits into their canteen account. Those people included relatives, ex-girlfriends and others, he said.
In light of the falsified documents, the Corrections Department changed the way it verifies early releases and prison officials will now verify with judges - not just court clerks - before releasing prisoners early.