FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — News 19 has taken a closer look at how investigators say Vicky White executed an escape with an inmate from the Lauderdale County jail last Friday.
The escape has drawn national headlines but Vicky, the former assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, and Casey White, who was in the jail awaiting trial on capital murder charges, remain at large, according to the latest reports.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton told News 19 the night before Vicky helped the inmate escape – using a false claim that he had a mental health appointment at the courthouse – she stayed in a hotel near Florence Boulevard.
And, it appears, the hotel’s location was part of a larger plan. Investigators said Vicky White’s sheriff’s office car was found parked in Florence strip mall a few hours after the pair had left the jail.
Investigators learned the getaway car that she purchased a few days earlier – a copper-toned 2007 Ford Edge – was in the same lot the night before the escape. The hotel she stayed in was within walking distance of that lot.
Singleton says she drove her official car to work last Friday morning, picked up Casey White, and then switched vehicles. The pair haven’t been sighted since that day, according to authorities.
News 19 asked Singleton why he thought Vicky White, 56, stayed at the hotel, rather than with her mother, where she’d been living since selling her own home.
“This is just basically, strictly, my own opinion,” Singleton said. “I think she didn’t want to face her mother that morning, knowing that she was going to leave.”
The U.S. Marshals Service said that after the pair left the area, they were last seen in Rogersville later that day in the Ford. However, Singleton told News 19 local authorities have been unable to verify that claim.
“I don’t know that they were spotted in Rogersville on Friday, my understanding is that the vehicle was seen in Rogersville prior to Friday,” the sheriff said.
Singleton said he no longer believes that Vicky and Casey White, who are not believed to be related, remain in the area.
“I don’t think they’re local,” Singleton said. “Of course, they could be right down the street, you know how that is. If I knew where they were at, that’s where we would be. But my gut feeling is that they’re out of this area.”
Casey White, 38, has a pending murder case — one the Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly says must be tried once he’s recaptured. He is charged with two counts of capital murder in the October 2015 death of Connie Ridgeway at her home in Rogersville. Ridgeway was found stabbed to death.
Casey allegedly confessed to the killing while he was already serving a 75-year prison sentence in Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer on attempted murder, kidnapping and burglary charges.
There have been a number of delays in the murder case. Connolly told News 19 those issues contributed to White’s being transferred to the Lauderdale County Detention Center in February. The Alabama Department of Corrections would not allow White’s lawyers to bring a computer or hard drive into the prison to discuss White’s case with him.
Connolly said White’s lack of access to his lawyers to assist his defense was a problem that would affect the future of the case. Connolly said he only wants to try it once, but if the case went forward without White conferring regularly with his lawyers, it could potentially be sent back on appeal.
Connolly said that stalemate with the state prison system hindered the case’s progress significantly. The defense requested in December that Casey be transferred to the county jail in Lauderdale County so they could prepare his case.
The initial trial in February was pushed back to April, and the trial judge ordered Casey to be transferred to Lauderdale County in February. But, the case was continued again until February, meaning Casey was in the jail partially supervised by Vicky White for more than two months.
Connolly told News 19 the June trial date will also likely be delayed further by the chaos of the escape. And, if they are caught, he wants see Casey White remanded back to the state prison system. He also wants state prison officials to change their approach and allow White’s lawyers access to him to prepare for the capital murder case. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Connolly said it was important to try the capital murder case against White.
“Number one, he needs to be held accountable for what he did,” Connolly told News 19. “And number two, those victims deserve to have the person who we believe murdered their mother brought to justice for that crime. And you know, that life without parole or 75-year sentence that he’s doing now, who knows what the parole board might do? I’m not suggesting they would let him out, but I mean, you know, you could say 75 years; I’ve seen lifers walk out of there.”
There has been public speculation that Casey confessed to the Ridgeway killing to get moved out of the prison system and into the Lauderdale County Jail.
But Connolly said Casey’s alleged confession to the killing spurred investigators to look at him as a suspect, they didn’t stop there, they vetted his information and then charged him.
Casey was indicted on charges of capital murder during a robbery and capital murder for financial gain. Connolly said he was indicted on the second charge because of the confession, but investigators were unable to corroborate the claim he was paid to kill Ridgeway. Connolly said that charge is not being investigated and the focus of White’s trial would be on the first charge.
And, he says both Casey and Vicky White will face additional charges for the escape once they are located.
“He’s going to be charged with escape in the first degree, which is a (Class) B felony and I forget how many priors he’s got,” Connolly said. “But she can be charged as an accomplice to that as well. Plus, there’s a separate charge against her for aiding in the escape.”