An Alabama murder suspect and his jailer who evaded authorities for more than a week after walking out of an Alabama lockup were carrying $29,000 US ($37,595 Cdn) in cash, four handguns and an AR-15 rifle, and were prepared for a shootout when they were captured, an Indiana sheriff said on Tuesday.
The escaped convict, Casey White, showed no remorse over the death of jail official Vicky White, who was found mortally wounded with a gun in her hand on Monday after a brief car chase, Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said.
Authorities don’t believe Casey White shot Vicky White, but a coroner will make the final determination, he said.
Casey White, 38, surrendered without a fight, saying he didn’t kill the woman he called his wife. He appeared by video on Tuesday in an Indiana courtroom, where he waived extradition, and authorities said he’ll be swiftly sent back to Alabama.
The end of the manhunt did little to answer lingering questions surrounding the jailbreak: Why would a long-respected jail official on the eve of her retirement give up everything to help a dangerous felon escape? What did they do while they evaded authorities for roughly eleven days? And when they were finally surrounded, did she really pull the trigger to end her own life?
Vicky White, 56, was pronounced dead at a hospital on Monday after the Cadillac she was driving was pushed by U.S. Marshals task force members into a ditch, where it ended up on its side, the sheriff in Evansville, Ind., said. They were nearly 480 kilometres from the Alabama jail where he had been awaiting trial for capital murder.
A lawyer representing Casey White in that case, Jamy Poss, declined comment on Tuesday, saying he was still trying to find out what had happened in Indiana.
NBC’s Today show reported on Tuesday that federal marshals said Casey White told officers at the scene, “Please help my wife. She just shot herself in the head and I didn’t do it.”
The two Whites were not related, let alone married, officials said.
Before Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear announced her death, the sheriff in Alabama had said he hoped to get answers from his once-trusted jail employee.
“I had every bit of trust in Vicky White. She has been an exemplary employee. What in the world provoked her, prompted her to pull a stunt like this? I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said.
Prisoner sighting sparked pursuit
Authorities closed in after the manager of a car wash said he told U.S. Marshals on Sunday that a man closely resembling Casey White had been recorded by a surveillance camera getting out of a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck. White stands six feet nine inches tall and weighs about 260 pounds.
After locating the F-150, authorities got information that the two may have then gotten into a beige 2006 Cadillac, U.S. Marshal Marty Keely told Good Morning America.
“We dispatched our people into the area of the car wash and observed the vehicle at a hotel,” Keely said.
Members of a U.S. Marshals task force went to investigate, leading to a brief chase, Wedding, Vanderburgh County’s sheriff, said on Today.
“The pursuit was very short. It went up a major artery here in Vanderburgh County, and they cut across a parking lot at a large factory. They were in a grassy area, so three of our task force members actually rammed the vehicle, pushed it into a ditch so it ended up on its side. As they approached the vehicle, it was obvious that the female driver was unconscious and still had a weapon in her hand. And they removed the murderer from the vehicle simultaneously,” Wedding said.
He said it has not been officially determined that Vicky White did in fact take her own life.
“The coroner’s office will do an investigation, and they will determine if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The initial indication is that it was, but we won’t rule anything out until we have a thorough investigation by the coroner.”
The manhunt began April 29 after Vicky White, the assistant director of corrections for the jail in Lauderdale County, told co-workers she was taking Casey White, who was awaiting trial in a capital murder case, from the jail for a mental health evaluation. There was no such appointment.
“We got a dangerous man off the street today. He is never going to see the light of day again. That is a good thing, for not just our community. That’s a good thing for our country,” Singleton, Lauderdale County’s sheriff, said.
Casey White was serving a 75-year prison sentence for attempted murder and other charges at the time of his escape. He was awaiting trial in the stabbing of a 58-year-old woman during a burglary in 2015. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. White will be returned to Lauderdale County in Alabama, where he’ll be arraigned on the latest charges, authorities said.
Federal and local law enforcement officials also learned that Casey White threatened to kill his former girlfriend and his sister in 2015, and said “that he wanted police to kill him,” the Marshals Service said.
A warrant was issued on May 2 for Vicky White, charging her with permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree.
Family, colleagues shocked by escape plot
Vicky White’s family members and co-workers said they were stunned. Singleton said it appeared the plan had been in the works for some time. Jail inmates said the two had a special relationship and that she gave Casey White better treatment than other inmates.
In the past several months, she bought a rifle and a shotgun and also was known to have a handgun, U.S. Marshal Keely said. She also sold her house — for about half of market value — and bought a 2007 orange Ford Edge that she stashed at a shopping centre without licence plates.
“This escape was obviously well planned and calculated. A lot of preparation went into this. They had plenty of resources, had cash, had vehicles,” Singleton said.
On what Vicky White said would be her last day at work, video showed the pair went from the jail to the shopping centre, where they picked up the Ford and left, he said.