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Police: Escaped Florida Prisoners Had Inside Help

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Two convicted killers who used forged release documents to escape their life sentences are being grilled by Florida law enforcement authorities who say they expect to make more arrests.

Among the questions being posed to Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker: Who forged the papers? Who helped you run from police? What other prisoners have gotten away with this? Who was coming from Atlanta to whisk you out of Florida? Authorities say they suspect Jenkins and Walker had inside help.

“There is speculation and underlying speculation that there was a source — where for a certain sum of money — these documents could be constructed for $8000,” says Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Commissioner Bailey promises “there will be more arrests.”

Jenkins and Walker, both 34, were captured Saturday night at a motel in Panama City Beach. Authorities say a close associate of Jenkins and Walker provided key information that led to their arrest Saturday in a Panama City, Florida motel. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference in Orlando urging them to surrender. Close relatives of the convicts are not considered suspects. Jenkins’s Uncle — Henry Pearson — picked him up from prison… then drove him to see his mother and grandmother. He says he thought Jenkins’ release was legitimate.

“I was saying this was a modern day miracle,” says Pearson.

But now that he knows the truth, Pearson alleges this was a terrible situation that no family should experience.

“Disappointing is not the word. The bottom fell out.”

Bailey says the men, who fled the Orlando area after word of their ruse became public, didn’t know law enforcement was on the way to Panama City. He says the escapees were waiting in the motel for someone to arrive from Atlanta to take them out of state, adding that authorities don’t yet know who that person was or where the convicts planned to go.

“Obviously we will be backtracking to see who helped carry out this fraud,” says Commissioner Bailey.

The Florida Corrections Department says it has already added an extra layer of security to verify the early release of prisoners.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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