There's a Bay Area connection to the escape inmates who were caught in Panhandle. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker were in the same prison as a Pinellas County inmate who escaped from jail back in 2009 using forged documents.
FOX 13 Investigative Reporter Doug Smith exposed the issue, which fooled the clerk's office and allowed Nydeed Nashaddai to go free for less than a day before the mistake was discovered.
Nashaddai was in the same prison as the recent escapees who used similar techniques to forge documents. Was he the mastermind? FDLE stopped short of making a direct link.
"There's still a lot we do not know and there's a lot we have yet to prove," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Nashaddai forged the signature of Chief Judge Thomas McGrady to spring himself from the Pinellas County jail in 2009. The forged paperwork in the case of Jenkins and Walker was filed in the Orange County Clerk of Courts office, and signed by Chief Judge Belvin Perry in Orlando.
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Judge McGrady spoke to reporters about the situation Tuesday afternoon.
"I was obviously surprised, but I kind of said to myself, ‘oh no not again.' I don't know who was involved, but I couldn't help wondering if Mr. Nashaddai is in that same facility," McGrady said.
The mistaken release led the Corrections Department to change its policy for early prisoner releases. It also caused the chief judge in the judicial circuit that covers Orange and Osceola counties in metro Orlando to change how orders are filed in the clerks of courts offices.
Judge Perry signed an order Monday that prohibits judicial orders from being accepted at drop-off boxes. His order also requires judicial assistants to keep a log of all orders to change an inmate's prison sentence.
When the clerk's office gets an order to change a sentence, the clerk must verify with the judge or judicial assistant that the order was issued, according to the new measures.
Now investigators are trying to figure out how the escape happened, who helped the inmates and and how many more escapes have gone undetected?
Officials with Florida Department of Law Enforcement say they just don't have those answers yet, but they're close, explains Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
"We have, today, uncovered key facts and we have now targeted several suspects. There's still a lot that we do not know, and there's a lot that we have yet to prove," Bailey said.
Officials say they know of seven cases were inmates tried to use forged documents to escape.
Those include the 2009 escape of Nydeed Nashaddai, who forged the signature of Pinellas County Judge Thomas McGrady.
He was re-captured, convicted of escape and then sent to the same prison where two convicted murders used forged documents to escape last week, leaving the victims' family members on edge for days.
"Unraveling the escape plot won't be easy or fast. We are looking at criminal history records, we're looking at DOC records, were looking at phone tolls, we're looking at canteen accounts. It goes on and on," Bailey said.
From the outside, officials are tracking down the inmates' associates, friends, or family who may have had a hand in it.
On the inside, they're looking just as closely.
"We are investigating that, and we will determine if in fact it was an inside job, or if they had any kind of inside assistance," Bailey said.
There is a $20,000 reward for information that leads to anyone who helped in the construction of the forged documents. Anyone who has tips should contact Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS (8477).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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