(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) — Two convicted murderers who escaped from a Florida prison by using forged release papers “knew their days were numbered” upon surrendering to police at a Panama City hotel, a law enforcement official said.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were apprehended without incident at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City at approximately 6:40 p.m. Saturday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
“They came out with their hands up in the air,” U.S. Marshals Service Chief Inspector Frank Chiumento told ABC News. “They knew when they saw it on the news, their scheme was uncovered.”
Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, about 20 members of the task force surrounded the hotel and told Jenkins and Walker to come out. About a minute later, both men came out with their hands in the air and were taken into custody without incident.
When the two convicted killers emerged from room 227, where they had been holed up since Wednesday, they told officials “they were relieved that it was over,” Chiumento said.
Both men were then taken to the Bay County Jail, where they await extradition, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Sunday the two inmates will make their first appearances in court.
While the manhunt for the escapees was on a national scale, law enforcement officials said they had information that led them to believe the men were hiding out in central Florida. An interview with an associate helped pinpoint Jenkins’ and Walker’s whereabouts, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
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.
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 afternoon, 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.
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.”
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
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Seth Kovar, CNN Newswire