Search continues for missing Alabama inmate and corrections officer
Here’s an earlier version of this story:
As investigators scramble to find a missing Alabama inmate, authorities are wondering whether the corrections official who left with him was a victim taken against her will or an accomplice who helped him escape.
“Obviously, she could have willingly participated. But we’re also concerned that maybe somehow, someone got to her and coerced her or threatened her, forced her to assist in this escape,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton told CNN on Monday.
“We’re not sure. I’m not going to know the answer to that until we locate her.”
Vicky White, an assistant director of corrections for the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office, was last seen Friday when she 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 are not related, never arrived at the courthouse. Authorities later discovered there was no evaluation nor hearing scheduled for Casey White that day.
And the patrol vehicle Vicky White used to drive the inmate was abandoned, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said.
“It never arrived at the courthouse. And it was found later at a shopping center parking lot about 2 miles away from the detention center,” Singleton told CNN Monday.
Shortly before her disappearance, Vicky White said she had also planned to get medical care because she wasn’t feeling well, Singleton said. But she never arrived.
Video security footage in the area where the patrol vehicle was found didn’t turn up any evidence showing what happened to Vicky White and Casey White, the sheriff said.
“We’re still aggressively pursuing every lead that we get,” he said. “The biggest obstacle we have right now is we still do not have a vehicle description for whatever vehicle they may have transferred into.”
No evidence of a romantic relationship, but ‘it’s a possibility’
Vicky White was known as an “exemplary employee” with “an unblemished record,” the sheriff said.
“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.
The sheriff said Vicky White is a widow with no children, and her mother and two brothers live in Lauderdale County.
After about two decades with the department, Vicky White submitted her retirement papers last week, the sheriff said.
Despite her stellar professional reputation, Vicky White violated protocol Friday when she removed Casey White from the detention center by herself, the sheriff said. The policy required Casey White to be escorted by two sworn deputies.
“All precautions were in place,” Singleton said. “The questions we have for Director White is why she violated policy.”
The sheriff said there’s no clear evidence as to whether Vicky White and Casey White had a personal relationship.
As the county’s assistant director of corrections, Vicky White “was frequently throughout the cell blocks, has contact with all the inmates at one time or another,” Singleton said.
“But as far as a romantic relationship or something like that, we have no evidence or proof that that was the case, although it’s a possibility.”
‘She’s definitely in danger — willingly or not’
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, which is now leading the investigation into the disappearance of the inmate and Vicky White.
Casey White also faces two counts of capital murder for the stabbing death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway in 2015, the US Marshals said.
In 2020, Casey White confessed to the killing and then pleaded not guilty, Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said. The inmate was being held while awaiting trial.
Now, with the murder suspect at large and the corrections official missing, “The community of course is concerned, as are we,” Singleton said.
“She’s definitely in danger, willingly or not. This guy’s no one to mess with,” the sheriff said.
“He’s 6-foot-9, weighs somewhere around 250 pounds. … We’re assuming he’s armed because she was armed.”
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 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.”
Vicky White’s mother, Pat Davis, told CNN affiliate WAAY she’s 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 had recently sold her house and had been living with her mother for the past five weeks, Davis told 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.”
The US Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of Vicky White and the capture of Casey White.