By Kelly McCleary and Chuck Johnston, CNN
As the search for an Alabama inmate and corrections official stretches into a fifth day, Vicky White’s family and colleagues are trying to make sense of how someone on the brink of retirement with “an unblemished record” is now the subject of a warrant and accused of helping a man charged with murder escape from jail.
Vicky White, an assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, is wanted on charges of permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree, Sheriff Rick Singleton said Monday.
She was last seen leaving the Lauderdale County Detention Center on Friday with inmate Casey White, 38, handcuffed and shackled in her patrol car, the sheriff said. The two are not related.
Vicky White said she was taking Casey White to the courthouse for a mental health evaluation and would then go get medical care because she wasn’t feeling well. Authorities later discovered there was no hearing or evaluation scheduled for Casey White that day and Vicky White never arrived at the medical facility.
The development has left Vicky White’s co-workers in shock. Friday was to be her last day at work after nearly two decades with the department, Singleton said. She submitted her retirement paperwork last week and had thought about moving to the beach, he added.
“All of her co-workers are devastated. We’ve never had any situation like this with Vicky White. She was a model employee,” Singleton told CNN’s Ryan Young.
“If she did this willingly, and all indications are that she did … 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.
Vicky White’s mother said she’s in disbelief about the entire situation and wants her daughter to come home.
“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,” Pat Davis told CNN affiliate WAAY.
Vicky White had been living with her mother for the past five weeks after selling her home, but never mentioned her retirement or Casey White, Davis said.
“I never heard of him, never seen his picture, nothing. I didn’t know anything about him,” Davis told the outlet.
Sheriff: ‘I’d be surprised if they’re still in Alabama’
Vicky White’s patrol car was found Friday in a shopping center parking lot less than a mile from the detention center, authorities said.
The car was spotted on surveillance video in the area just eight minutes after leaving the jail, Singleton said, indicating it was driven straight to the parking lot and they never attempted to go to the courthouse.
But the video doesn’t show what happened after the car arrived at the parking lot.
Singleton told CNN he believes they transferred to a vehicle that was staged at the shopping center parking lot or may have been picked up by someone.
“We have looked for footage, of course, throughout the shopping center, hoping to identify a second vehicle that they got into when they left that area. But we weren’t able to obtain any kind of evidence that would help us in that part of the investigation,” he said.
“I’d be surprised if they’re still in Alabama,” the sheriff said. He noted officials at the Mexican and Canadian borders have been notified of the search.
Vicky White would have money from the recent sale of her home, but her retirement fund paperwork had not yet been processed, Singleton said.
The US Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of the missing inmate and officer.
Casey White is 6’9″ and while he may have changed his appearance since leaving the jail, his height will still make him stand out, US Marshal Marty Keely said Monday.
Escaped inmate is ‘extremely dangerous’
Casey White is “an extremely dangerous person,” Singleton said.
He was serving 75 years in prison for a series of crimes in 2015, including a home invasion, carjacking and a police chase, according to the Marshals Service.
He was being held at the Lauderdale County Detention Center to attend court hearings on two capital murder charges he faces related to the stabbing death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway in 2015, the Marshals Service said.
He confessed to the crime in 2020 then pleaded not guilty, according to Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly.
“We’re assuming he’s armed because she was armed,” Singleton said of Casey White. The sheriff warned people not to approach the inmate if they see him and to call police instead.
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.
Vicky White violated policy by leaving the jail alone with Casey White but since she was second-in-command at the facility other officers didn’t push back, Singleton 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 noted.
As part of her job, 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,” he added.
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CNN’s Ryan Young, Elizabeth Wolfe, Laine Mackey, Nadia Romero and Maria Cartaya contributed to this report.