Missing corrections officer 'willingly' participated in inmate's escape, sheriff says

Casey White and corrections officer Vicki White have been missing since Friday.

ByTheresa Waldrop, Jamiel Lynch and Rebekah Riess, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Missing corrections officer 'willingly' participated in inmate's escape, sheriff says
Authorities believe that an Alabama corrections officer "willingly" participated in the escape of a capital murder suspect.

FLORENCE, Ala. -- Authorities in Alabama are searching for a corrections officer and an inmate who is charged with murder after they went missing on Friday.

Vicky White, assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, took Casey White, the inmate, from jail Friday morning, saying she was taking the prisoner to the county courthouse.

The two, who officials said are not related, have not been seen since, and the US Marshals Service is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the inmate's capture and the location of the officer, the service said Sunday.

A warrant for Vicky White's arrest was issued on charges of permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said Monday.

Here's what we know.

The officer and the inmate left the jail

Vicky White said she was taking Casey White for a mental health evaluation when she checked him out of the jail. She said she was going to get medical care after dropping the inmate off at the courthouse because she wasn't feeling well.

Authorities found out later no such evaluation -- or any court hearing -- was scheduled for Casey White that day, and Vicky White never made it to the place where she was to get medical attention, according to Singleton.

That afternoon, concerned officers at the jail tried to reach Vicky White, but her phone went straight to voicemail. It was then they found out Casey White had not been returned to the jail.

Authorities are looking at all possibilities, including whether the corrections officer willingly helped Casey White escape, which Singleton said Monday is looking likely.

MORE: Manhunt underway for escaped Alabama inmate and the corrections officer who removed him from jail

Authorities are searching for an "extremely dangerous" murder suspect who escaped from an Alabama jail and the official they now believe may have helped him to escape.

"If she did this willingly, and all indications are that she did," Singleton told CNN's Ryan Young. "I guess we're trying to hold on to that last straw of hope that maybe for some reason she was threatened and did this under coercion... but absolutely you'd feel betrayed," Singleton said Monday.

"Knowing the inmate, I think she's in danger whatever the circumstances," Singleton said Friday.

"He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose. Whether she assisted him or not we don't know, and we won't address that until we have absolute proof that that's what happened. We are assuming at this point that she was taken against her will unless we can absolutely prove otherwise. But regardless, even if she did assist him, we think she's in danger," said Singleton.

Planned escape vehicle

The 2013 Ford Taurus patrol car that Vicky White and inmate Casey White took from the jail was found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot Friday morning, according to the sheriff.

Officials have obtained video showing the patrol car stopped -- about eight minutes after it left the jail -- at an intersection about two blocks from the shopping center parking lot, Singleton said Monday.

"What that tells us is that the patrol car left the detention center and went straight to the parking lot" where it was abandoned, the sheriff said. "There was not enough time for them to even attempt to try to come to the courthouse."

Authorities have determined the officer and inmate left the parking lot in a copper-colored 2007 Ford Edge SUV that Vicky White bought and parked in the lot the night before, Singleton said Tuesday.

The officer went against policy

In her job as assistant director of corrections, Vicky White coordinated all transports from the detention center to the court, so she knew protocol called for two sworn deputies to be with Casey White at all times, as he was an inmate with capital murder charges, according to Singleton.

"All precautions were in place," Singleton said. "The questions we have for Director White is why she violated policy."

Other officers likely didn't push back against Vicky White because she was second-in-command at the facility, 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," he explained.

Officer and inmate had 'special relationship,' sheriff said

Officials believe Vicky White and Casey White have known each other since at least 2020 and developed a "special relationship" that extended to the correction officer's off-work hours, Singleton told CNN Tuesday.

Their non-physical relationship was confirmed, in part, by inmates who told officials that Casey White received special privileges such as extra food because of the officer, he said.

The pair is believed to have met in early 2020 when Casey White was brought to Lauderdale County for an arraignment after he confessed to a 2015 murder, according to Singleton.

"As far as we know that was the earliest physical contact they had," he said, noting that they continued to communicate after he was transferred back to state prison.

Vicky White is an 'exemplary employee,' sheriff said

After about two decades with the department, Vicky White submitted her retirement papers last week, and the day she disappeared was supposed to be her last day at work, the sheriff said.

A widow with no children, she had talked about retiring for three or four months before Friday's incident, sold her home about a month ago, and thought about moving to the beach, the sheriff said.

Vicky White had been living with her mother, Pat Davis, for the past five weeks after selling the home, Davis told CNN affiliate WAAY.

The mother said her daughter didn't talk much about work, didn't mention retirement and never spoke about Casey White.

"I didn't know anything about him," Davis said. "We don't know if she was took by force or if she was voluntarily in this. But we just want her back. That's all we want."

Davis said she was in a state of shock.

"As a mother, I didn't know how to act because I thought at first it was a mistake," Davis said. "And then when I found out for sure it was, it was just disbelief."

Vicky White "does a tremendous job," Singleton told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday morning.

"All of her co-workers, all the employees in the sheriff's office, the judges, all have the most utmost respect for her," Singleton said. "She has an unblemished record. She's an exemplary employee. So we're very concerned for her safety."

Casey White considered 'armed and dangerous'

Casey White was serving 75 years for a series of crimes he committed in Limestone County in 2015. The spree included home invasion, carjacking and a police chase, according to the US Marshals Service.

In 2020, he confessed to the 2015 killing of a woman in Rogersville, Alabama, according to Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly. White then pleaded not guilty to the crime.

The Alabama Corrections Department website lists Casey White as an inmate at the William E. Donaldson Correction Facility in Jefferson County. He had been transferred to the Lauderdale County detention center on February 25 for court appearances in the murder case, according to Singleton.

In 2020, while Casey White was being held in Lauderdale County's detention center, authorities learned he planned to escape the jail and take a hostage, Singleton said.

RELATED: Warrant issued for corrections officer who went missing with inmate

"We shook him down, and we did find a shank in his possession -- a shank is a prison knife. And we retrieved that. We immediately had him shipped back to the Department of Corrections," Singleton said Monday.

The jail already 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," Singleton said.

Because Vicky White had a 9 mm handgun, authorities assume Casey White, who is 6-foot-9, is now armed and should be considered dangerous, Singleton said.

Reward offered

The US Marshals Service has taken on the case, the service said in a news release. It is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to the location of the missing inmate ($10,000) and officer ($5,000). The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are also involved in the investigation.

"Anyone with information on White's location or Assistant Director of Corrections White's disappearance is urged to contact law enforcement," the release said. "You can call the USMS Communications Center at 1-800-336-0102. Anonymous tips may also be submitted via the U.S. Marshals Tip App."

"You shouldn't try to approach either one of these individuals because we consider both of them dangerous, and in all probability, both individuals are armed," US Marshal Marty Keely said Monday.

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