By Faith Karimi, CNN
Updated: Fri, 13 May 2022 16:21:31 GMT
The chaotic 11-day escape started with a simple lie.
Around 9:30 a.m. on April 29, Vicky White, a 5-foot-5 blonde woman, was working her last day on the job as an assistant director of corrections in Lauderdale County, Alabama.
She ordered her subordinates to prepare Casey White, 38, for transport from the county jail in Florence to a courthouse for a mental evaluation. But no such evaluation was scheduled.
Cameras inside the jail captured what turned out to be the beginning of the final, deadly chapter of 56-year-old Vicky White's life. Dressed in a black jacket and black pants, she nonchalantly held the door open as a handcuffed and shackled Casey White emerged. The 6-foot-9 inmate in an orange prison outfit that partially covered his White supremacist tattoos shuffled to the back seat of the patrol cruiser. Vicky White whisked him away.
And so began a flight from justice that spanned at least three states, grabbed national attention and left Vicky White's colleagues stunned. It ended Monday evening in Evansville, Indiana, with Casey White in custody, Vicky White dead and authorities trying to unravel the mystery of how -- and why -- it happened.
"All of her co-workers are devastated. She was a model employee," Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said. "What in the world possessed her to pull a stunt like this? The only conclusion I guess we can come to at this point is just a jailhouse romance."
They ditched the sheriff's cruiser minutes from the jail
After nearly two decades with the department, Vicky White didn't spend her last day on the job eating cake and hugging her coworkers to celebrate her retirement. Instead, she was on the run with a criminal who was already serving 75 years in prison for attempted murder and awaiting trial on a separate murder charge.
Shortly after the pair escaped, authorities began to uncover a laundry list of evasions and fabrications.
Transporting an incarcerated person alone was against protocol. So Vicky White told a booking officer she was the only deputy available with a certified firearm to transport Casey White. Her coworkers didn't question her because of her position as second-in-command at the jail. It was also a plausible explanation -- several deputies had left minutes earlier with two vans transporting a dozen inmates, Singleton said.
That was likely part of the plan.
"She scheduled the van transport that morning, made sure all the other armed deputies were out of the building and tied up in court ... knew the booking officer wouldn't question her when she told her she was going to take him to court and drop him off with other employees," Singleton said.
Just 10 minutes after leaving the jail, the pair ditched the sheriff's cruiser -- with Vicky White's jail keys, radio and handcuffs still inside -- at a shopping center parking lot in Florence.
Casey White failed to return to the detention center that afternoon, and repeated calls to Vicky White's phone went to voicemail. By then, the couple had fled in a copper-colored Ford SUV that Vicky White had purchased using an alias a few days prior. She'd parked it at the shopping center the night before the escape, Singleton said.
It was parked in a section used for cars for sale, which helped investigators identify it as the vehicle they were hunting. "We had a witness who saw it there because he was looking at the car for sale but noticed that it didn't have a for sale sign and thought it was unusual," Singleton said. "When news broke that her patrol car was found there, he called in and said, 'Hey, I saw this car out there.'"
It was the second of four cars that would help provide a road map of where the fugitives were during the intense manhunt.
She bought men's clothes and shopped at an adult store
In the 11 days they were on the run, they made it 280 miles away from Florence. They had tens of thousands of dollars in cash. They used the new clothes, wigs and several vehicles to throw investigators off their trail.
As authorities worked to track them down, they wondered how a respected law enforcement colleague got entangled with a violent criminal. Why did an employee with an exemplary work record risk her life, pension and a sterling reputation to help a dangerous inmate? How long had they planned their jailbreak?
"A lot of the questions we had may never be answered now," Singleton said.
But some things seemed clear: Vicky White had carefully prepared for the escape -- and it had been in the works for a while. "This was very well planned and calculated," Singleton said.
Surveillance video footage taken before April 29 backs up the sheriff's comments about Vicky White, a widow who had no children. Her actions showed she spent the past few weeks preparing and uprooting her life.
For months, she had told her coworkers about her plans to retire and move to the beach. In the weeks leading up to the escape, she handed in her retirement paperwork and sold her home in the tiny town of Lexington, Alabama, for $95,550 -- less than half of its market value. She moved in next door to her mother, Pat Davis, who said she had no idea about her daughter's plans.
"She would come home after work, eat supper at my house, and pick up her dog. She'd walk her dog and that was her routine every day," Davis told CNN.
In the days leading up to the escape, Singleton said, Vicky White shopped for men's clothes at a department store. She also bought some items at an adult store.
She "was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan. He was behind bars. He really couldn't plan too much behind bars," Singleton said after the arrest. "She arranged -- purchased the getaway car, she sold her house, got her hands on cash ... She just obviously put the plan together. Casey White didn't escape from the facility; he was basically just let out."
Their 'special relationship' dated back at least 2 years
Not much is known about the extent of Vicky White's relationship with Casey White. Details have emerged in dribs and drabs.
Singleton believes the pair, who were not related, met in 2020 when Casey White was transferred to the Lauderdale County jail for an arraignment in the 2015 fatal stabbing of Connie Ridgeway.
"As far as we know, that was the earliest physical contact they had," the sheriff said.
After the arraignment, Casey White returned to state prison. But Singleton said the officer and inmate kept communicating by phone.
Other inmates revealed details about the unusual perks Casey White received from Vicky White, including extra food, Singleton said.
Investigators discovered the two had shared a "special relationship" for at least two years, the sheriff said. "We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates," he said. "We have confirmed through independent sources and other means that there was in fact a relationship between Casey White and Vicky White outside of her normal work hours -- not physical contact -- but a relationship of a different nature."
In summer 2020, while Casey White was imprisoned for attempted murder and a string of violent crimes, he asked to speak to a Lauderdale County investigator. When the officer arrived, he confessed to killing Ridgeway in Rogersville, Alabama, authorities said. He later recanted his confession and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Casey White was brought back to the Lauderdale County jail in February to attend court hearings related to his murder charges.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said he was stunned that Vicky White may have been romantically involved with an inmate. "I never would have thought that in a million years," said Connolly, who spoke with her almost every day for 17 years.
He described Vicky White as "the most solid person at the jail."
"I would have trusted her with my life," he said.
A stop at a car wash helped narrow down their location
As time passed without any leads on their whereabouts, investigators released images of the jailer and the fugitive to highlight their stark height difference. Tips poured into the local authorities and US Marshals Service.
Six days after their escape, the Ford SUV was identified in a tow lot in Williamson County, Tennessee, about two hours north of Florence. But Vicky White and Casey White were nowhere to be found.
After dumping the SUV -- their second car after the cruiser -- they had bought a Ford F-150 truck for $6,000 in cash in Tennessee, US Marshals Commander Chad Hunt said.
On Sunday night, investigators got a tip that helped zoom in on their location. The owner of a car wash in Evansville, Indiana, notified investigators that the truck had been discovered at his business about 175 miles north of Williamson County.
Surveillance footage from the business showed the fugitives got into a Cadillac sedan after they abandoned the truck. "Not only did we identify the truck, but when they left the truck on the premises, we saw them enter into a Cadillac, which kept us up to speed on what vehicle they may be in at the time," Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said.
Casey White showed no remorse after the capture, authorities say
A task force from Alabama descended on Evansville and teamed up with deputies and marshals in Indiana.
There, investigators drove around, scouting out motels and restaurant parking lots for the Cadillac.
Then, on May 9, Evansville Police detective Darren Richardson was driving home after his shift when he spotted the Cadillac in the Motel 41 parking lot just south of the sheriff's office.
"I turned back around, swung through the parking lot and got ... the license plate for the vehicle," Richardson told CNN affiliate WAAY.
Investigators believed the fugitives rented the motel room, and had paid someone who was homeless to use their identification. Motel 41 owner, Paul Shah, told CNN that someone checked in to a room and paid for a two-week stay. The person was not checked in under either of the missing pair's names, he said.
Law enforcement set up surveillance outside the motel and saw Vicky White exiting it. She was wearing a wig and got into the Cadillac. It pulled out of the parking lot with Casey White at the wheel, and he drove away, US Marshal Marty Keely said.
Authorities began to quietly tail the fugitives. Shortly after that, a car chase began. Audio of a 911 call that Evansville officials say Vicky White made appears to start near the end of the chase. A woman's voice -- believed to be hers -- is heard within the first six seconds, saying, "Wait, stop ... air bags going to go off and kill us." She shrieks several times before saying, "Air bags are going off. Let's get out and run."
The pursuit ended when a law enforcement official rammed the suspects' vehicle, sending it into a ditch, Wedding said.
When authorities reached the Cadillac, they found Vicky White had been shot. She died of a single gunshot wound to the head and the manner of her death was ruled a suicide, the coroner's office said. She's survived by her parents and two brothers.
As officers approached the car, Casey White asked them to help "his wife," Keely said, and told them he "didn't do it."
Authorities said that, to their knowledge, Casey White and Vicky White were not married. Investigators arrested him as medical crews tried to save her.
"He certainly didn't show any remorse for anything he's done. That's supposed to be his girlfriend and she's dead and he hasn't shown any remorse that I've seen since that happened," Singleton said. "He used her, which they always do. Unfortunately, Vicky lost not only everything she had but her life."
The pair had been in Evansville for six days, and Wedding is perplexed on why they chose the town of 100,000 just over the Ohio River from Kentucky. "It was just hard to believe they were here -- I wouldn't think somebody on the run would stay in a community like Evansville," Wedding said.
Inside the Cadillac, the pair had about $29,000 in cash, wigs, four handguns, a loaded AR-15 style rifle, extra magazines for each weapon, and a police duty belt with handcuffs and a Taser. The crash thwarted Casey White's plan for a shootout, authorities said.
"Their plan was pretty faulty. They're criminals, their plan was faulty and it failed. Thank God," Wedding said.
Casey White was transported back to Alabama in a caravan of armored vehicles. He was charged with escape in the first degree -- in addition to the capital murder charges he's facing in Ridgeway's death.
After a whirlwind 11 days, the manhunt had come to a deadly end. But for many who knew Vicky White, the questions are only beginning.