By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Two convicted killers who used fake release papers to walk free from a Florida prison earlier this year were aided by a forger and a man whose brother was murdered by one of the convicts, officials said on Thursday.
The details shed new light on how the killers, Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, escaped from a prison in the Florida Panhandle earlier this year before they were later recaptured.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) charged four men in connection with the scheme that resulted in the erroneous release of Jenkins and Walker from the Franklin County Correctional Institution.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences for murder, but walked out of prison with bogus papers saying their sentences had been reduced.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said Nydeed Nashaddai, a convicted forger with a record for burglary and theft, engineered the scheme that included the use of prison computers, printers and "legal mail" inmates typically use to communicate with their attorneys.
Nashaddai, who was serving a 20-year term, had previously escaped from a Tampa jail for about 18 hours in a 2009 fraud.
Bailey said a three-month investigation turned up evidence that a former inmate, Willie Slater, helped from the outside by submitting the fake papers to a court office.
Bailey said Slater had been serving time for a home invasion robbery and assault but Jenkins, already serving life, submitted a false affidavit saying in fact he had committed the robbery.
Jenkins' false affidavit helped get Slater's conviction overturned, so Slater returned the favor by delivering the forged paperwork that Nashaddai and others printed in the prison, said Danny Banks, the special agent in charge of the FDLE's Orlando office.
"Essentially, he owed that favor to Mr. Jenkins," Banks said. "It seems odd that he would help get his brother's murderer out of jail, but he owed a significant favor to Mr. Jenkins, which he fulfilled."
Jenkins had made a previous unsuccessful attempt at getting out with forged papers, he said.
"This is still an active investigation," Bailey said. "We definitely have a more clear understanding of the fraud. We still have numerous leads and evidence to filter through."
Bailey said agents are investigating a tip that a prison fraud ring is offering to arrange forged release papers. He said there has been no evidence of any involvement by prison employees or workers in the Orange County clerk of court's office.
(Editing by Kevin Gray)