A manhunt for a corrections officer who disappeared last month with an inmate accused of murder in Alabama ended Monday with the two in custody after a police pursuit resulted in a crash in Indiana, the authorities said.
The officer, Vicky White, had been on the run with the inmate, Casey White, since April 29, when they left the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence, Ala., for a courthouse appointment that was later revealed to be a fabrication.
The two, who are not related, had last been seen on that day in Rogersville, Ala., about 24 miles east of Florence, Marty Keely, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Alabama, said on May 2.
They were seen in what was described as a gold- or copper-colored 2007 Ford S.U.V. with Alabama plates, a vehicle the authorities said the pair abandoned along a rural road in Williamson County, Tenn., the same day they escaped.
The Ford was found on May 6, abandoned with paint buckets inside, said Sheriff Rick Singleton of Lauderdale County. The pair had “probably tried to disguise it,” he added, “but they didn’t do a very good job of it.” Officer White’s patrol vehicle had been left at Florence Square Shopping Center, where the pair had switched vehicles, Sheriff Singleton said.
Officer White disappeared with Mr. White on the morning of April 29, after she left the jail under the pretext of escorting him to the county courthouse a few blocks away for a mental health evaluation. She told a booking officer at the jail that, after dropping off Mr. White, she intended to “seek medical assistance” for herself.
That did not happen, Sheriff Singleton said at a news conference on May 1. The premise for leaving the jail was “all bogus,” he said.
The disappearance was not noticed until about six hours after the officer and the inmate had left, according to the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office.
Ms. White stayed at a Quality Inn in Florence, Ala., on the two nights leading up to her disappearance, according to video footage the sheriff’s office released on May 7.
“We don’t know exactly why she stayed out there,” Sheriff Singleton said, adding, “Maybe she didn’t want to face her family that morning, knowing what she was seeking to do.”
Sheriff Singleton said the authorities knew “for sure” that Officer White had helped Mr. White flee the jail, though he said she might have been coerced or threatened into doing so. As the jail’s assistant director of corrections, its second highest-ranking officer, she was responsible for handling transportation for inmate appearances in court.
An arrest warrant was issued for her on a charge of permitting or facilitating an escape. A week later, charges of forgery and identity theft were added stemming from the use of an alias to purchase the Ford S.U.V., the Sheriff’s Office said.
Mr. White, 38, was charged in 2020 with two counts of murder in the fatal stabbing of a woman in 2015, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which described him as approximately 6-foot-9 and weighing about 330 pounds. Mr. White had already been serving a 75-year sentence for previous convictions, including two carjackings and multiple shootings. He was awaiting trial in the 2015 murder.
A lawyer for Mr. White declined to comment.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that investigators had determined, through interviews with inmates, that Officer White and Mr. White were in a “special relationship.” Sheriff Singleton in a news conference said “it’s obviously a jailhouse romance or something.”
Sheriff Singleton told NBC’s “Today” show on May 5 that Officer White and Mr. White had been in a relationship for at least two years, and that the two had been in contact by phone when Mr. White was an inmate at a state prison in Donaldson, Ala.
“He was here in 2020 for an arraignment, a preliminary hearing,” Sheriff Singleton said. “When he finished that, he went back to state prison.”
The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on May 4 that Officer White was “no longer employed” by the office.
She had recently decided to retire, and the escape occurred on her last day of work. Sheriff Singleton said that it was unusual for someone her age, 56, to retire four years before her retirement benefits would become available.
Her mother, Pat Davis, said in an interview with WAAY-TV that Officer White never spoke of retirement, though she’d recently sold her house and moved in with Ms. Davis.
“Nobody saw this coming,” Sheriff Singleton said, emphasizing Officer White’s reputation as a respected colleague and a four-time recipient of the jail’s employee of the year honor.
At the time of the disappearance, Officer White was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun. The U.S. Marshals Service warned that she and Mr. White might have been armed with a shotgun and an AR-15-style rifle.
On Wednesday, the Marshals Service said in a statement that Mr. White had threatened a former girlfriend and her sister, warning that he would kill them if he ever got out of prison.
The Marshals Service and Alabama authorities have been in touch with the sisters “to advise them of the threats and the escape,” and have taken steps to protect them, the statement said.