Jail Officer and Murder Suspect Missing After Heading to ‘Bogus’ Appointment

Alabama and federal authorities are searching for a corrections officer and a murder suspect who were last seen on Friday leaving the jail for what should have been a three-minute drive to the county courthouse for an appointment that turned out not to exist, officials said.

The officer, Vicky White, who is the assistant director of corrections, left the Lauderdale County Jail at 9:41 a.m. to take the inmate, Casey White, for a mental health evaluation at the county courthouse in Florence, Ala., just outside Muscle Shoals.

However, no such appointment existed, the sheriff, Rick Singleton, said in a news conference on Friday.

Though Officer White and Mr. White have the same surname, they are not related, officials said. The authorities said they were investigating whether there had ever been a relationship between the two.

On Sunday, Sheriff Singleton described an apparently contradictory set of circumstances: Officer White, he said, almost certainly helped Mr. White escape, yet she had been one of the most respected and senior figures at the jail.

On Friday morning, she told the booking officer that she would take Mr. White to his appointment and then “seek medical assistance” for herself because she was feeling ill, the sheriff said. But Officer White did not go to a medical appointment either.

“It was all bogus,” Sheriff Singleton said. “That leads us to believe that she was involved.”

Mr. White, who was charged with two counts of capital murder in 2020 for a murder-for-hire slaying, should have had two deputies with him at all times, the sheriff said. That includes during transportation to the courthouse, which was a three-minute drive away. “She was alone, which was a strict violation of policy,” he said on Friday.

Officer White’s duties included scheduling the transportation of inmates to appear in court and arranging for them to be escorted by armed deputies — in other words, her job was to implement the policy that she apparently violated.

Yet her involvement would be dramatically out of character, the sheriff said. He said that during his seven years as sheriff, Officer White had been voted as its employee of the year four times. She had been chosen from more than 50 people working at the jail.

Though she was the jail’s second highest-ranking officer, “she would get her hands just as dirty as the next one as far as needing to do something,” Sheriff Singleton said. “If there was a situation in the cell block, she was going right into the cell with the other correction deputies.”

Mr. White is 6-foot-9 and weighs between 250 and 275 pounds, but for him to escape from his shackles and get over the screen in a patrol car during a drive of just four blocks seems “far-fetched,” Sheriff Singleton said.

“I don’t think there’s any question she assisted, but to do it willingly would be so out of character for the Vicky White we all know,” he added, raising the possibility that “she had been threatened or coerced into helping him escape.”

At 11:34 a.m. on Friday, a police officer spotted Officer White’s abandoned patrol car among cars for sale at Florence Square, a shopping mall two miles from the jail.

At 3:30 p.m., the booking officer on duty reported that he had been unable to reach Officer White. Calls were going to her voice mail. Around this time, officials confirmed that Mr. White, who had tried to escape before, was not at the jail, Sheriff Singleton said.

Civilians have called with tips, saying they had seen Officer White and Mr. White in Lauderdale County, and officials are reviewing video footage in the area. Their primary focus is identifying what vehicle they got into after abandoning the patrol car, Sheriff Singleton said.

The U.S. Marshals Service on Sunday announced that it was offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of Mr. White and the location of Officer White.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a “blue alert” on Friday night for the missing officer. “Casey White is believed to be a serious threat to the corrections officer and the public,” the alert said.

Sheriff Singleton said Officer White was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun before she disappeared, leading investigators to believe that Mr. White was now armed.

“Knowing the inmate, I think she’s in danger, whatever the circumstance,” Sheriff Singleton said. “He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose.”

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