Six months later, Cedric Slater was gunned down on an Orlando street corner -- shot dead, a jury determined, by Charles B. Walker.
Both killers were convicted and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole within two years of their crime. While it's not known if they knew each other, they were at the same prison in North Carrabelle, in Florida's Panhandle.
Jenkins left there on September 27, and Walker left on October 8, according to authorities. They had motions indicating the sentences had been reduced, as well as court orders granting the request. Investigators later discovered these documents were forged.
Asked how someone might replicate the documents, O'Mara noted that court filings in Florida cases are available online, so they might be mimicked by "anybody with a little common sense," access to a word processing tool and the gall to replicate signatures seen on those records.
There might have been a screw-up, but Cash said there is no "cover-up" at the Department of Corrections. That agency's chief, Michael Crews, has promised a "vigorous and thorough review" to make sure others weren't also wrongly freed.
"This will be a lesson learned for all involved. We may now look more closely at what the court sends," Cash said. "Our system is being accused, and people are being led to believe that the DOC let these guys walk out the front door, and that's just not the case."
There's good reason to question, and change, the system, O'Mara said. Whereas victims are notified before a defendant's pretrial release, there's no such notice -- even to prosecutors -- before a convict walks free, he pointed out.
In fact, the first that prosecutors got wind of what happened was after they were contacted by a member of Walker's family, Ashton said.
An October 8 letter from the Department of Corrections to Slater's mother, Evangelina Kearse, notified her a "court order and amended sentence caused (Walker's) sentence to expire."
"Please be aware that recent actions causing the release of this offender are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we apologize for the delay in this message," it said.
It doesn't have to be this way, O'Mara said. "Let not only the victim's family know well ahead of time, then send it to the state's attorney," he said, surmising prosecutors as well as victims won't let mistakes by so easily. "...That's an easy fix."
Not the first case, perhaps not the last
One irony is that Florida authorities were completely ignorant that such ruses can work.
On October 7, charging documents were filed against another inmate, Jeffrey Forbes, for allegedly trying a similar scheme in 2011.
Forbes is accused of forgery and attempted escape after a police detective who initially helped convict the man discovered he was scheduled to be released despite being sentenced to life in prison for the attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, according to Ashton's statement.
The investigation revealed that someone had forged Ashton's name on a bogus court order reducing the sentence and a circuit court judge's name on the order reducing Forbes' life sentence, the statement said.
Nonetheless, Walker was freed thanks to his own forged documents the very next day -- October 8.
Both he and Jenkins appeared to play by the rules afterward. They both went to the Orange County jail to register as felons -- Jenkins on September 30, Walker on October 11 -- an audacious "and really smart move" by both men, because it bought them time before authorities were tipped off anything was awry, O'Mara said.
While their releases may have initially seemed legitimate and innocuous, the two convicts had been classified as escapees by this week.
One of the officials whose signature was forged said he wouldn't be surprised if something like this happens again. It may not work exactly the same way, but it would be unwise to assume criminals won't try whatever they can to get out of prison, said Judge Perry.