An Alabama corrections officer who has gone missing with a capital murder suspect had recently sold her home and filed for retirement just days before the pair vanished on their way to a non-existent court appearance.
Assistant Director of Corrections Vicki White, 56, submitted her retirement papers to Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) last week after a two-decade-long “exemplary” career with the department, Sheriff Rick Singleton confirmed on Monday.
This came just five weeks after Ms White’s mother said her daughter sold her home and moved in with her – but didn’t mention anything about her plans to retire.
Now, a huge manhunt is underway after Ms White and inmate Casey Cole White, 38, vanished without a trace on Friday morning after leaving the local jail together.
The sheriff’s office said that Ms White, who is no relation to the inmate, picked him up from the detention centre at around 9.30am claiming that she was taking him for a mental health evaluation at Lauderdale County Courthouse.
She told her coworkers that once she had escorted him to court she was going to seek medical attention for herself as she felt unwell.
They never arrived at the courthouse and neither the corrections officer nor the inmate have been seen since.
Sheriff Singleton said that they have since learned that White had no scheduled court appearance or appointments that day.
Concerns have been growing for Ms White’s safety ever since with officials describing White as “a serious threat to the corrections officer and the public”.
The inmate is currently serving a 75-year sentence for a 2015 crime spree across two states where he shot one person and held six at gunpoint.
He is also awaiting trial over the stabbing murder of a 58-year-old woman that same year.
Sheriff Singleton said that White previously plotted a prison escape in 2020, planning to take a hostage to break out of the jail before the plot was foiled by guards.
A huge manhunt is underway to track down the officer and the inmate, with the US Marshals Service offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to White’s capture.
On Sunday, the sheriff’s office released new photos of the suspected killer taken recently from surveillance footage inside the jail.
In the images, White is seen dressed in orange prison garb with short facial hair as he walks the hallways of the lock-up.
In one photo, the inmate is seen reaching his left hand under the sleeve of his right arm, which is heavily tattooed.
On releasing the images, the sheriff’s office said that there was no “significant updated information” to share with the public, although a press conference was slated for 10.30am CT on Monday.
The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are still unclear but the sheriff said it appears that the corrections officer was “involved and participated in the escape”.
“All indications are that Director White was involved and participated in the escape,” he told WBRC.
“We are trying to determine was that done willfully, or was she somehow coerced or threatened into participating?”
However he said there is no evidence that the pair are involved in a romantic relationship and officials are continuing to keep an open mind.
Ms White’s concerned mother told WAAY that she was in disbelief about what had happened and just wants her daughter back safely.
“As a mother, I didn’t know how to act because I thought at first it was a mistake,” said Pat Davis.
“And then when I found out for sure it was, it was just disbelief.”
She told the outlet that her daughter had never mentioned the inmate and didn’t often speak about her work.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” she said.
“We don’t know if she was took by force or if she was voluntarily in this. But we just want her back. That’s all we want.”
Ms White’s 2013 Ford Taurus patrol car was found abandoned in the parking lot of a shopping centre not far from the jail at around 11am Friday.
Surveillance footage from the area has provided no clues as to where the pair went next and authorities do not have a description of any vehicle that they may have transferred into.
Sheriff Singleton said that Ms White, who coordinates all inmate transportation, broke protocol by taking the inmate out of the jail alone.
Due to the severity of charges against Mr White and his previous prison break attempt, it is policy that he must be escorted by two sworn deputies at all times including when he is transported to and from the courthouse.
But, despite the breach, the alarm was only raised several hours after the pair left the jail on Friday morning.
At around 3.30pm that afternoon, Ms White’s coworkers grew concerned that she hadn’t returned and they were unable to reach her by phone.
It was only then that they also realised that Mr White had also not returned to jail.
Officials are assuming that Mr White is now armed with the corrections officer’s 9mm handgun and are urging the public not to approach the “extremely dangerous” escapee but to call 911 with any sightings.
“Knowing the inmate, I think she’s in danger whatever the circumstances,” the sheriff said at a press conference on Friday.
“He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose.”
Mr White was being held on capital murder charges over the 2015 slaying of 58-year-old mother Connie Ridgeway.
Ms Ridgeway was found stabbed to death in her apartment in Rogersville, Alabama, on 23 October 2015.
The case went unsolved for five years until Mr White sent a letter to authorities confessing to the crime.
At the time he was already behind bars serving a 75-year sentence after being convicted of a crime spree in both Alabama and Tennessee including a home invasion, carjacking and a police chase.
In 2020, Mr White was charged with two counts of capital murder over the killing of Ms Ridgeway.
Meanwhile, Ms White has been “an exemplary employee” for the department for the last 25 years and had been voted Supervisor or Employee of the Year in four of the last seven years.