Two convicted killers who were erroneously freed from prison were recaptured together without incident at a Panama City hotel. Joseph Jenkins and Chris Walker, both 34, were taken into custody around 6:40 pm local time.
The arrests came hours after the freed inmates’ families held a news conference urging them to turn themselves in. They were discovered at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility for murder charges before they were released within the last month, reports USA Today. The inmates used bogus paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge’s forged signature, to ensure their releases.
Jenkins was set free on September 27 and Walker was allowed out on October 8. Family members of both convicted killers initially thought their release was legitimate and spent time with them, even planning a birthday party for one and going to church with the other.
However, the families found out otherwise on Wednesday when it was discovered the inmates weren’t supposed to be released. ABC News notes that law enforcement officials developed information two days ago that Jenkins and Walker were staying in Panama City Beach.
They narrowed down the hotel and room number on Saturday and quickly moved in. About 20 members of a task force set up to recapture the men descended on the hotel and police told the pair to come out. Both men complied a minute later, walking out with their hands in the air. They were taken to the Bay County Jail.
It wasn’t known whether the men, who were serving time for separate crimes, planned their escapes together. However, authorities are researching whether they got help from someone to forge the documents giving them lesser sentences for their crimes. Corrections Secretary Michael Crews also sent a letter to judges saying that prison officials will now verify early release requests with judges, not just court clerks.