By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Investigators have linked several suspects to the case of two convicted killers who used forged court documents to escape from a Florida prison, and the get-out-of-jail-free scheme has worked at least once before, authorities said on Tuesday.
"The investigation is moving forward on two fronts. The first is to identify the creators of fraudulent documents ... The second is to track the documents through the system," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said at a news conference.
"We have uncovered key facts and targeted several suspects," Bailey added, "but there is still a lot we don't know or have not proven."
He did not say exactly how many accomplices may have been involved in the escape of Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, who were recaptured last Saturday. The men, both 34, had walked free from life sentences in a prison in the Florida Panhandle on September 27 and October 8, respectively.
Bailey said a combined $20,000 in rewards was being offered for information about who may have helped the men. While there is no indication any prison workers were involved, he added that investigators were still looking into the possibility of an inside job.
"Since this investigation started, we have confirmed that two other Franklin C.I. inmates were in the process of obtaining fraudulent release documents," said Bailey, referring to the Franklin County Correctional Institution, from which Jenkins and Walker escaped.
Without elaborating, he said an inmate identified as Nydeed Nashaddai had used bogus court papers to flee a Pinellas County jail in 2009.
Nashaddai was recaptured about 16 hours later. For that short-lived escape, he got almost 13 years of additional prison time, on top of his original seven-year and four-month sentence for multiple counts of forgery, prison records show.
"Jenkins and Walker are already serving life sentences; they have very little to lose, but those who helped them have very much to lose," said Bailey. "I urge those of you who may have helped them to come forward, talk to us, before we find you."
(Editing by Tom Brown and Gunna Dickson)