Authorities said Friday they have found the getaway vehicle that an escaped inmate and corrections officer may have used when they mysteriously disappeared from a north Alabama jail a week ago.
But authorities say the officer, Vicky White, 56, and the inmate, Casey White, 38, were already gone when authorities located the abandoned orange 2007 Ford Edge in a Tennessee trailer lot. Authorities say the officer used an alias to purchase the SUV and is likely using new false identities as the manhunt for the couple continues.
“We’re a little lost,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said Friday, noting that the discovery of the vehicle puts them “back at square one.”
“This is a very calculated plan,” he added.
In response, officials increased the reward for the couple to the largest sum allowed under state law. Up to $10,000 is now being offered for information leading to the officer’s arrest and another $15,000 for information leading to the inmate’s apprehension, for a total of $25,000.
Sheriff Singleton said officials found the vehicle in Williamson County, Tennessee, on a rural road off Interstate 65, about 100 miles from the jail in Florence, Alabama. He said the vehicle was abandoned and towed away on April 29, the day the couple disappeared. even before officials knew they were missing.
Tennessee authorities did not initially realize until Thursday that it was the same vehicle sought in the getaway. They are now trying to determine if any vehicles were reported missing in the area, he said.
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No weapons were found in the car, indicating the two are still armed, Singleton said. He added that officials are scouring the sparsely populated area where the car was dumped looking for witnesses.
Some of Vicky White’s belongings were found in the vehicle, which someone had attempted to spray paint, she said.
The tow truck driver who towed the vehicle likely saw news coverage of the escape and notified police in Tennessee, Singleton said. “There is no fault or fault of anyone,” he said.
The way the vehicle was abandoned indicates it may have had mechanical problems, he added.
“I think he threw a curveball at them and they didn’t plan for it,” he said. “Obviously they’ve had a lot of time to recover from that.”
‘SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP’:Sheriff describes two-year relationship between Alabama officer Vicky White and escaped inmate Casey White
Vicky White had multiple aliases and used one of them to purchase the vehicle, Singleton said. She was seen on video staying at a Quality Inn the night before the escape, which was a short drive from where she purchased the Ford SUV. Authorities said she withdrew approximately $90,000 from area banks before they fled, money she likely amassed from the sale of her home just days before both she and the inmate disappeared.
Singleton said he is now likely using new false identities.
Vicky White, who worked as a deputy director of corrections, and Casey White disappeared last week after leaving the Lauderdale County Detention Center in Florence, Alabama together. The couple, who authorities say had a “special relationship” that lasted at least two years, were supposed to go on a court date that turned out not to exist, Singleton said.
“Obviously it’s a prison romance,” Singleton said.
Meanwhile, the US Marshals Service said in a Friday statement to CNN that White threatened his ex-girlfriend and her sister, saying if he got out of jail he would “kill them.” Authorities have warned potential targets of his escape and have taken “appropriate protective measures,” according to the statement.
Casey White was found guilty on kidnapping and attempted murder charges after he tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and kidnap her two roommates. He was sentenced in 2019 to 75 years in prison. He also faces capital murder charges in the 2015 murder-for-hire of Connie Ridgeway after she confessed to the murder while in custody.
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The agency also released new photos of the couple, including images of the inmate’s tattoos, according to CNN. The statement included photos of Vicky White with hair darker than her normal blonde, and she said that she may have changed her hair color.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that the two fugitives should be “considered extremely dangerous” and armed, warning anyone who sees them not to approach them.
Singleton also told CNN that investigators have received information about reported sightings from Florida to Kentucky.
“The leads that we receive, we are pursuing as aggressively as we can,” he said. “Some of them look promising, but it takes time to get on with those things. Hopefully one of them will work for us and we can track them down.”
The jail where Vicky White worked is still reeling from the events. Vicky White had sold her house for $95,000 and turned in the paperwork to retire. The day he disappeared was supposed to be his last day at the sheriff’s office, Singleton said.
His office had planned a retirement party and bought him gifts the day of the escape, the sheriff told AL.com. She said many of her staff “almost looked at her as a mother figure.”
“They are devastated,” Singleton said, adding that the department brought in counselors for employees.
SINCE LAST WEEK:Alabama corrections officer and capital murder suspect are missing, sheriff says
Vicky White is facing charges that include allowing or facilitating the escape of an inmate after authorities said she participated in the escape. She was also fired from her position, eliminating the payments that she would receive from her pension.
Authorities said the two-year relationship between Vicky and Casey White, who are not related, included prison visits and phone calls. The relationship also included special privileges for Casey White, other inmates told investigators.
Surveillance footage showed Vicky White alone as she escorted Casey White out of the detention center last Friday, in violation of department policy. The couple drove to a parking lot, where Vicky White’s abandoned patrol car was found later that day.
Contact News Now reporter Christine Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.