An Alabama corrections officer and an inmate who is facing capital murder charges went missing Friday after the two allegedly left the jail to go to court for a mental health evaluation that was never scheduled.
The inmate, Casey Cole White, and Lauderdale County Sheriff's Assistant Director of Corrections Vicky White left the jail at about 9:41 a.m. local time but never showed up at the courthouse and did not return to the detention center, Sheriff Rick Singleton told reporters Friday.
Investigators have confirmed that there was no mental health evaluation or any court appearance scheduled. Authorities said it is not yet clear whether Vicky White, who is not related to Casey White, was helping him escape or whether she was kidnapped.
"We’re looking at all angles," Singleton said. "Did she assist him in escaping? That’s obviously a possibility. Was she kidnapped en route to the courthouse and taken against her will? That’s obviously another angle we’re looking at."
Singleton said the corrections official had told the booking officer she was going to take the inmate to the courthouse and then seek medical attention because she wasn't feeling well.
Her patrol vehicle was spotted parked at a local shopping center shortly after 11 a.m. local time. Then, at about 3:30 p.m., the booking officer reported to another administrator that they had been unable to get ahold of White on her phone and realized that neither she nor the inmate had returned, prompting them to initiate the search, Singleton said.
The sheriff said White had worked for the department for 25 years and was considered "an exemplary employee," adding that she had been voted Supervisor of the Year and Corrections Employee of the Year multiple times.
"Every employee in this office is shocked that she’s missing and that this has happened," he said. "She is very well respected and liked by her coworkers."
Transporting the murder suspect alone as White did was a "strict violation" of the sheriff's office policy, which requires two sworn deputies to escort such inmates to court, Singleton said. He noted that since she oversees the detention center's operations, it's likely that her subordinates "didn't question" her when she said she was taking the inmate to court alone.
When asked whether the two interacted much or had any kind of relationship, Singleton said investigators were looking into that "to see if something else was going on there" that they weren't aware of.
Casey White was being held on capital murder charges in connection with the 2015 death of 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway, according to WHNT. White confessed to killing Ridgeway in 2020 while serving time in state prison for other crimes, the station reported.
On Saturday, Singleton said his office had contacted the FBI, US marshals, and other law enforcement agencies to assist in the search. The Marshals Service has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Casey White's capture. Investigators are searching video footage from the detention center, the courthouse, and the shopping center where the patrol car was located, he said.
Regardless of whether Vicky White assisted the inmate, Singleton said, they believe the corrections official, who was armed with a 9 mm gun, is in danger. Casey White is "considered armed and extremely dangerous," the sheriff warned.
"Our hope and prayer is that we get him before somebody gets hurt," the sheriff said.
Correction: Vicky White's first name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article, which used information provided by the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office.