“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,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said Wednesday on ABC’s Good Morning America. “Go ahead and end it now. Get to a phone, call 911, turn yourself in and help us get Casey White back behind bars because you know that’s where he’s going to eventually end up.”
Over the last week, authorities have discovered the officer, 56, and inmate Casey White, 38, had a romantic relationship and that Vicky White visited him multiple times in her off-hours while he was in state prison, according to Singleton.
The pair, who are not related, disappeared Friday morning when the corrections officer said she was taking Casey White to the courthouse before going to get medical attention because she felt unwell. But the two never showed up at the courthouse and the officer didn’t make it to the medical facility.
In the days since they went missing, investigators have determined the officer and inmate had a “special relationship” in which Vicky White afforded the inmate special privileges including extra food. The investigation was aided, in part, by inmates who informed officials of the relationship over the weekend.
“Some of the inmates here in our facility sent word to our investigators that there was a relationship between the two,” Singleton told CNN on Wednesday. “We took their statements, what they said, followed up on it and we did confirm that in fact there was a relationship there.”
Vicky White, who was set to retire the day she went missing, had also made some major financial moves leading up to the escape.
She sold her home on April 18 for well below market value. The house sold for $95,550, according to documents, but Lauderdale County records show list the home’s total parcel value to be $204,700.
Relatives and coworkers say they are stunned by the sudden disappearance of the corrections official, who Singleton has described as a “model employee” with an “unblemished record.”
Vicky White has an active warrant out for her arrest on charges of permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree. She is also no longer employed by the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office, the office said in a statement Wednesday. While Friday was her last day of work, her retirement papers were never finalized, the office said.
Here are the key developments in the investigation as authorities desperately search to find the pair.
Video captures quick escape
Officials say Vicky White, who was the assistant director of corrections, brazenly violated department policy when she took Casey White from the jail Friday morning.
The facility had a policy requiring that two sworn deputies accompany inmates at all times, including during transportation to the courthouse. Singleton said that policy was emphasized with Casey White after authorities discovered he had a plot to escape custody and take a hostage in 2020 and uncovered a makeshift knife on him.
But that morning, Vicky White asked an officer to prepare Casey White for transport, saying she would take him by herself to the courthouse since the other officers had already left for court and she was the only officer available with a certified firearm, Singleton said.
Surveillance video shows Casey White, shackled and handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit, being escorted into the back of Vicky White’s patrol vehicle Friday morning.
The investigation has revealed the pair then drove to a shopping center parking lot less than 10 minutes away, left the patrol car in the lot and escaped in a gold- or copper-colored Ford Edge SUV with minor damage to the rear left bumper, authorities 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.
Relationship began in 2020, sheriff says
Investigators have traced the relationship to early 2020 when Casey White was brought to Lauderdale County for an arraignment on murder charges he is facing for the 2015 death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway, according to the sheriff.
“As far as we know that was the earliest physical contact they had,” Singleton said.
It was then that authorities found the homemade prison knife on the inmate and uncovered his plan to escape, leading the Lauderdale detention facility to reinforce its policy that he should be accompanied by two deputies at all times while in its custody.
Casey White was returned to state prison after the arraignment to continue carrying out a 75-year sentence for a series of crimes he committed in 2015. The sheriff says the officer and inmate maintained communication, including visits from Vicky White in her off-hours.
Casey White was brought back to the Lauderdale County jail in February to attend court hearings related to his murder charges.
Over the course of this week’s investigation, inmates said that Casey White “was getting extra food on his trays” and “was getting privileges no one else got. And this was all coming from her,” Singleton said.
Investigation set back by release of a lead
Leading up to their escape, Vicky White purchased a 2007 Ford Edge SUV in Rogersville, about 25 miles east of Lauderdale County, according to Singleton. The night before she disappeared with Casey White, the officer parked the car in the shopping center parking lot where the pair would drive to the next day and flee in the SUV.
When investigators were finally able to confirm the description of the escape car Monday, they intended to send it internally to other law enforcement agencies, but the lead was accidentally released to the public.
“The description of the car is what we worked on hard all weekend because we had no clue what kind of vehicle they left in,” Singleton told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday night. “We put the word out to law enforcement to be on the lookout and inadvertently one of those agencies sent the description out publicly. That really set us back.”
Singleton said the pair has likely ditched the car by now because the description is being widely shared.
But investigators have gathered other leads on the possible location of the inmate and officer, he said.
“We’ve got several tips … especially east of the Mississippi,” the sheriff said, but added that authorities still “do not have any clue where they’re at.”
CNN’s Michelle Watson, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Amara Walker, Jade Gordon, Ryan Young, Jaide Timm-Garcia, Tina Burnside