As the search continues for a fugitive inmate and the Alabama corrections officer who allegedly helped him escape, new details are emerging about the pair’s relationship and the officer’s apparent preparations for their getaway.
The investigation has illuminated what authorities believe to be a romantic relationship between Vicky White, assistant director of corrections in Lauderdale County, and Casey White, who was being held at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility on murder charges, Sheriff Rick Singleton told CNN.
A warrant has been issued for Vicky White’s arrest on charges of permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree, the sheriff said Monday, as authorities grow more confident that the officer willingly aided the inmate in his escape, instead of being forced or coerced.
Vicky White, 56, and Casey White, 38, who are not related, went missing Friday morning after she said she was taking the inmate to the courthouse before going to seek medical attention because she wasn’t feeling well. The two never arrived at the courthouse and Vicky White didn’t make it to the medical facility.
Authorities now believe the inmate and officer had a romantic relationship which extended into Vicky White’s non-work hours, according to the sheriff. They traced the relationship back to as early as 2020, when Casey White, who was already serving time in a state prison, was first brought to Lauderdale County for an arraignment, Singleton said.
“As far as we know that was the earliest physical contact they had,” Singleton said, noting the pair continued to communicate after Casey White was transferred back the prison.
Singleton said the two had a “special relationship” that was confirmed, in part, by inmates at the detention facility who told investigators Casey White “was getting extra food on his trays” and “was getting privileges no one else got and this was all coming from her.”
Investigators are now pouring through surveillance images from the detention center to learn more.
“Vicky, you’ve been in this business for 17 years, you’ve seen this scenario play out more than once and you know how it always ends,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “Go ahead and end it now, get to the phone and dial 911, turn yourself in and help us get Casey White back behind bars. You know that’s where he’s eventually going to end up.”
HOW THE ESCAPE UNFOLDED
Surveillance video released by the detention centre Tuesday shows Casey White, shackled and handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit, being escorted into the back of Vicky White’s patrol car Friday morning.
From there, Singleton says, the pair drove to a shopping centre less than 10 minutes away, abandoned the patrol car and got into a gold/copper-colored 2007 Ford Edge SUV.
Vicky White bought the car in the town of Rogersville, which is about 25 miles east of Lauderdale County, and staged it in the parking lot the night before their disappearance, Singleton said.
“We know that there was never any effort to go to the courthouse. They went straight to Florence Square parking lot, dumped the patrol car, got in the other vehicle and left,” Singleton said.
“We assume they are going to ditch that car at the first opportunity when they get wind that the description is out there, so we’re back to square one,” he added.
Investigators have also offered more details on Casey White’s history at the Lauderdale County facility.
While being held there in 2020 for his arraignment on murder charges related to the 2015 death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway, authorities discovered he had a plan to escape and take a hostage and had a makeshift knife on him.
Upon the discovery, Casey White was transferred back to the state prison where he was already serving a 75-year sentence for a number of crimes in 2015.
The Lauderdale County jail had a policy mandating two sworn deputies accompany inmates at all times, including during transportation to the courthouse — but “we emphasized that policy with him” after the escape plot was uncovered, Singleton said.
Casey White returned to the Lauderdale County Detention Facility in February to attend court hearings in his capital murder case.
Friday morning, Vicky White ordered that Casey White be prepared for transport, telling the booking officer that since other officers had already left for court and she was the only officer available with a certified firearm, she was going to take him to the courthouse alone, the sheriff said.
“Being the boss and over the transport, she just informed the booking officer that she was going to carry him to the courthouse and drop him off, which was a flagrant violation of policy. But I’m sure because it was her boss, the booking officer didn’t question it,” Singleton said.
The sheriff has described Casey White as “an extremely dangerous person” and cautioned people not to approach him if they see him and call police instead.
Authorities assume Casey White is armed because Vicky White was armed. The US Marshals Service warned Tuesday they may have an AR-15 rifle and a shotgun.
‘I AM SO DISAPPOINTED IN HER,’ DA SAYS
Vicky White sold her home about a month ago and was scheduled to retire Friday after nearly two decades with the department, Singleton has said, adding her retirement fund paperwork has not been processed.
The disappearance and emerging details about the woman described as being “a model employee” with “an unblemished record” has left her family and coworkers in a state of disbelief.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly last spoke with her the day before she disappeared and said he was “absolutely stunned” to learn of the situation, describing the officer as “the most solid person at the jail.”
“I am so disappointed in her,” he said. “She was trusted, and she exploited that trust.”
Vicky White’s mother, who she had been living with for the past five weeks after selling her home, said she never heard her daughter mention Casey White and was shocked to find out she had gone missing with an accused murderer.
“As a mother, I didn’t know how to act because I thought at first it was a mistake. And then when I found out for sure it was, it was just disbelief,” Pat Davis told CNN affiliate WAAY.
The Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to US$10,000 for information leading to the location of the fugitive inmate and up to $5,000 for the missing officer.