The pair went missing Friday after Vicky White, assistant director of corrections for the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office, said she was taking inmate Casey White, who was being held on murder charges, for a mental health evaluation at the county courthouse.
But the officer and inmate, who officials say are not related, never arrived at the courthouse, and authorities later discovered there was no evaluation or hearing scheduled for Casey White that day.
When Vicky White — an “exemplary employee” who submitted her retirement papers last week — checked Casey White out of the detention center around 9:30 a.m., she said she was going to drop him off at the courthouse, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said.
She then planned to get medical care, she said, because she wasn’t feeling well, Singleton said. But she never arrived.
That afternoon, concerned officers at the jail tried to call Vicky White, but her phone went straight to voice mail. They then found Casey White had never been returned to jail.
Authorities were considering various scenarios over the weekend, including whether Vicky White was overpowered and kidnapped by the 6-foot-9 inmate or helped him escape, through coercion or her own willingness, Singleton told CNN.
Vicky White’s patrol vehicle was spotted around 11 a.m. Friday in a shopping center parking lot by someone on their lunch break, Singleton said.
Authorities on Saturday searched video security footage in the area where the patrol vehicle was found but did not turn up any evidence showing the two getting into another vehicle, the sheriff said. His office is working on leads that may help investigators identify the vehicle the pair left in, Singleton said Sunday, adding there is “nothing confirmed at this time.”
“We continue to view video footage for possible leads but have recovered nothing that has had a significant impact on the investigation,” said Singleton, adding authorities don’t know whether they are still in Alabama.
Inmate previously plotted to escape
In 2020, Casey White planned to escape the jail and take a hostage, but detention center employees caught him, Singleton said. The prison then established a policy mandating two sworn deputies accompany him at all times, including during transportation to the courthouse, the sheriff told CNN.
Casey White was serving 75 years for a series of crimes in 2015, including a home invasion, carjacking and a police chase, according to the US Marshals Service. He also faces two counts of capital murder for the stabbing death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway in 2015, the service said.
He confessed to the killing in 2020 and then pleaded not guilty, according to Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly. He was being held while awaiting trial.
Because Vicky White was armed with a 9mm handgun when the pair went missing, authorities assume Casey White is likely armed, Singleton said, adding it is unknown if there were other weapons in her patrol vehicle.
The corrections officer is likely in danger no matter the circumstances of their disappearance, Singleton said.
“He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose,” the sheriff said. “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.”
The Marshals Service joined the search for the inmate and officer and is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the capture of Casey White and the location of Vicky White.
Veteran officer violated jail policy
As the assistant director of corrections, Vicky White was aware of the jail policy requiring Casey White to be escorted by two sworn deputies at all times, Singleton said. By removing him from the detention center on her own, Vicky White broke the protocol.
“All precautions were in place,” Singleton said. “The questions we have for Director White is why she violated policy.”
The officer had frequent access to people held in the detention center, including Casey White, Singleton said.
Vicky White submitted her retirement papers last week, according to Singleton, who described her as “an exemplary employee” with “an unblemished record.”
“All of her coworkers, all the employees in the sheriff’s office, the judges, all have the most utmost respect for her,” Singleton said.
Vicky White has been with the department for about two decades, Singleton said. She is a widow with no children, and her mother and two brothers live in Lauderdale County.
CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield, Rebekah Reiss, Keith Allen and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.