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The search continues for two people after an Alabama correctional officer allegedly assisted with the escape of an inmate charged with capital murder.
Fears mounted over the weekend when Vicki White, the assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, Alabama, vanished Friday morning after she signed Casey Cole White, 38, out of jail, according to the local sheriff’s office.
On Monday, however, authorities issued a warrant for Vicki White’s arrest, alleging she helped the inmate — who was being held at the county jail awaiting trial on charges of capital murder — make his escape.
Despite sharing a last name, the pair are not related.
During a live press conference on Monday, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton announced they are charging Vicki White, 56, with facilitating or permitting escape in the first degree.
Until the announcement on Monday, it had been unclear whether investigators believed that Vicki White was a hostage or a participant in Casey White’s escape.
“We know she participated,” said Singleton. “Now, whether she did that willingly, or if she was coerced, [or] threatened somehow to participate in his escape, [we’re] not really sure.”
It also remains unclear whether or not the deputy and the inmate were involved in a relationship, though Alabama law classifies sexual contact with an inmate by an employee as a custodial sexual misconduct, a class C felony.
The U.S. Marshals are one of many law enforcement agencies assisting in the case, and are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspects’ whereabouts.
U.S. Marshal Marty Keery also spoke at Monday’s press conference, flagging both Casey White’s 6’9” stature and the possibility that he has changed his appearance.
Keery said both suspects are considered armed and dangerous.
The sheriff’s office released the most recent photos of Casey White in which he had a buzz haircut — a contrast from his previously-released booking photos.
On Friday, Vicki White told coworkers she had to sign the inmate out of the jail for a mental health evaluation at around 9:30 a.m., according to NBC Birmingham affiliate WVTM-TV. She'd said she planned to drop the inmate off at the courthouse before going to her own doctor’s appointment because she was feeling unwell.
At the press conference, Singleton said a protocol had already been established where two deputies are required for the transportation of all inmates. The sheriff believed the booking officer may not have questioned Vicki White — who was that person's boss — when she claimed she that would leave the inmate with other deputies.
The two-officer protocol was created in 2020 after authorities allegedly discovered Casey White’s plans to take a hostage and escape the facility. Singleton said they found a shank in the inmate’s possession before sending him back to the state's Department of Corrections.
Authorities did not notice the pair’s absence until about 3:30 on Friday afternoon, giving the suspects a six-hour head start, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Monday, Singleton confirmed that Vicki White’s patrol car — which she used to transport the handcuffed and shackled inmate — was found abandoned at a shopping center on Friday. Time-stamped surveillance video led authorities to believe that the pair drove straight there after leaving the sheriff’s office.
“There was not enough time for them to even attempt to try and come to the courthouse,” said Singleton.
Investigators are still trying to identify how the pair traveled after abandoning the patrol vehicle.
Casey White was being held for trial after pleading not guilty by reason of mental disease for the brutal stabbing murder of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway during a 2015 home invasion, according to Birmingham's CBS 42.
"Someone really needs to find out how this happened," said Ridgeway's son, Austin Williams, on Monday. "Someone really needs to look into that and make sure it can't happen again because we really would like to see him go to trial."
Per WVTM-TV, Casey White had already been sentenced to 75 years behind bars for a string of crimes in Limestone County, including kidnapping, attempted murder, robbery and burglary.
He was also charged with attempting to shoot his ex-girlfriend and holding her roommates hostage in 2015, according to court records obtained by the Birmingham outlet.
“Knowing the inmate, I think she’s in danger, whatever the circumstances,” Sheriff Singleton previously stated. “He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose.”
Singleton said Vicki White had been employed with the sheriff's office for 16 years and had discussed retiring in recent months.
In fact, Friday was supposed to have beeen her last day at work.
“This is not the Vicki White we know, by any stretch of the imagination,” Singleton said at the press conference. “She has been an exemplary employee. The employees are just devastated that she was involved in this… we just hope this has a good ending.”
Singleton said Vicki White might be in possession of a significant amount of money since the recent sale of her home. She was also in possession of her law enforcement-issued 9 mm firearm when she left the sheriff’s office Friday morning.
Casey White is described as being a 6”9’ white man weighing 260 pounds. He has hazel eyes and tattoos on his back and left shoulder.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Vicki White or Casey White is urged to contact law enforcement or the Marshal Service’s communications center at 1-800-336-0102. Officers emphasize that no one should attempt to approach the suspects.
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