Jail official Vicky White told co-workers she was taking Casey White for a mental health evaluation. But no such appointment was scheduled it later emerged.
US authorities believe an Alabama jail official helped an “extremely dangerous” murder suspect escape prison.
Inmate Casey Cole White, 38, was shackled and handcuffed when he and Vicky White, the facility's assistant director of corrections, left the Lauderdale County Detention Center in Florence, Alabama, on Friday morning.
They have not been seen since, although the patrol vehicle the pair used when leaving the detention centre was found at a nearby shopping centre car park.
Authorities have no idea where they are, although the inmate should be recognisable by his size. He is 2.06 metres tall and weighs about 118 kilograms. Authorities warned anyone seeing the pair should not approach them.
“We consider both of them dangerous and, in all probability, both individuals are armed," US Marshal Marty Keely said at a press conference on Monday. He noted that Casey White “will stand out” because of his size, even if he has changed his appearance.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said they had issued an arrest warrant for Vicky White, 56, on charges of permitting or allowing an escape. She is not related to Casey White, who was serving a 75-year prison sentence and awaiting trial on a capital murder charge.
Vicky White told co-workers she was taking him to the courthouse for a mental health evaluation. But Singleton later said no such evaluation was scheduled. She also violated a policy that required more than one official to be involved in transporting inmates, a rule that officials emphasised for White because he had previously tried to escape, Singleton said. The sheriff said a video showed the pair left the jail and went straight to the shopping centre car park.
“We know she participated, whether she did that willingly or if she was coerced, threatened somehow to participate, not really sure. We know for sure she did participate,” Singleton said.
“Casey White, as you’ve heard me say over and over and over is an extremely dangerous person and we need to get him located and get him off the street,” Singleton said.
Casey White was serving time for a string of crimes that included attempted murder, robbery and burglary. While in prison, he had confessed to the 2015 stabbing death of a 58-year-old woman, authorities said, which caused him to be brought to the Lauderdale County jail for court proceedings. The sheriff said they believe White plotted an earlier escape from the jail in 2020 when they found a makeshift knife.
He could face the death penalty if convicted of the capital murder charge. The US Marshals Service is offering up to $10,000 for information.
Singleton said Vicky White had been an exemplary employee and jail employees are "just devastated". “This is not the Vicky White we know, by any stretch of the imagination,” the sheriff said.
Vicky White had planned to retire and Friday was to be her last day. He said she had sold her home about a month ago and “talked about going to the beach".
The sheriff said they had no leads at this point on where the two are located.
“If we knew where they were at, we would be there and not here,” Singleton said.
As an assistant director for corrections, Vicky White moved throughout the county detention facility and had multiple opportunities every day to be in contact with any given inmate, the sheriff said. Her job duties also included coordinating the transport of inmates.
Vicky White's mother, Pat Davis, told WAAY she was in shock and scared for her daughter.
“As a mother, I didn’t know how to act because I thought at first it was a mistake. And then when I found out for sure it was, it was just disbelief,” says Pat Davis. She told the station that “we just want her back” and found it difficult to believe her daughter would help an inmate escape.
“She’s never done anything, I bet she’s never even had a speeding ticket," Pat Davis said.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said he was also shocked. He last spoke to Vicky White on Thursday about transporting an inmate with a broken ankle to get medical care, and nothing seemed unusual.
“She is somebody I would have trusted with most anything. She was one of those people you could call if you needed something to happen at that jail. She was the go-to person,” Connolly said.