Authorities in Alabama are searching for a corrections officer and an inmate who is charged with murder after they went missing last Friday.
Vicky White, who was assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, took Casey White, the inmate, from the county jail Friday morning, saying she was taking him to the county courthouse.
The two, who officials said are not related but may have had a romantic relationship, have not been seen since.
The pair likely abandoned their vehicle – an orange 2007 Ford Edge SUV – in Williamson County, Tennessee, just hours after they went missing, perhaps due to mechanical problems, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a news conference Friday.
Local authorities, unaware of the search at the time, responded to the vehicle and had it towed to a local tow lot, where it was recovered this week. Williamson County is about two hours north of Florence, Alabama, where the fugitive investigation started.
Investigators are now trying to determine what may have been the pair’s next steps and whether they may have stolen a vehicle from the Williamson County area or got a ride with someone, the sheriff said.
“After Friday afternoon, when they abandoned that car, which direction they went from there, we don’t know,” he said.
The US Marshals Service is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the inmate’s capture and $5,000 for information leading to the location of the officer, the service said Sunday. The agency said they should be considered dangerous and may be armed with handguns, an AR-15 rifle and a shotgun.
Alabama’s governor has also offered a reward of $5,000 each for information leading to the capture and arrest of the inmate and the officer.
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.
They left the jail last Friday
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.
Sheriff: Officer and inmate had ‘special relationship’
In the days since their disappearance, investigators have determined Vicky White and Casey White have known each other since at least 2020 and developed a “special relationship,” Singleton told CNN on Tuesday.
Their relationship was confirmed, in part, by inmates who told officials that Casey White received special privileges like extra food because of the officer, he said.
They are 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.
Casey White was returned to state prison after his arraignment to continue serving a 75-year sentence for a series of crimes he committed in 2015, and the sheriff said the officer and inmate maintained communication by telephone.
He was brought back to the Lauderdale County jail in February to attend court hearings related to his murder charges.
Planned escape vehicle, officer sold home
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 the orange 2007 Ford Edge SUV that Vicky White bought and parked in the lot the night before, Singleton said Tuesday.
Additionally, Vicky White sold her home weeks before she and the inmate vanished: Her home sold on April 18 for $95,550, documents show. That’s well below market value, per online records with Lauderdale County, which list the home’s total current parcel value at $235,600.
While Vicky White was set to retire the day she went missing, her retirement fund paperwork had not been processed, the sheriff said. The department said Wednesday she is no longer employed by the sheriff’s office.
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.
Vicky White an ‘exemplary employee’
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, 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, 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 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.”
As details have emerged about Vicky’s alleged involvement in the escape, her colleagues say she has shown a part of herself they never knew.
“Obviously, there was a side to Vicky White that we weren’t aware of. And she has coordinated this and taken advantage of her knowledge of the system and played it to her advantage and made it very difficult,” Singleton told CNN on Thursday.
The sheriff could not explain why the officer allegedly assisted the escape, saying that the action isn’t “the Vicky White we know.”
In a Thursday interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly, who has known Vicky White for years, described her as a reliable person and “solid employee.” If something needed to be done at the courthouse, for example, Vicky White was someone they could call, Connolly said.
“She was a longtime trusted employee at our jail and she just exploited the system,” he said, “and really misused the trust and credibility she had gained over the years as a great employee.”
As the officer may have altered her appearance, the Marshals Service released a rendering of what she might look like if she darkened or shortened her hair.
Casey White considered ‘armed and dangerous’
Casey White was serving 75 years for a series of crimes he committed in Limestone County in 2015, including a 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.
“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.
The inmate also allegedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and her sister in 2015 if he got out of prison and said he wanted the police to kill him, the Marshals Service said Thursday. The agency says it has advised his “potential targets” of the threat and his escape and taken protective actions.
The US Marshals Service released images of Casey White’s distinctive tattoos to aid people in identifying him.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of corrections officer Vicky White. The story also had an outdated value for Vicky White's home; the most recent value was $235,600.
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.