An Alabama corrections official who vanished with an inmate facing capital murder charges “may have been brainwashed” into helping him escape, her mother-in-law said Tuesday.
The pair could be anywhere by now, Frances White told The Daily Beast, explaining that Lauderdale County Assistant Director of Corrections Vicky Sue White, 56, was frugal and had amassed enough money to keep her afloat for some time.
“She had said that she’d like to live in Florida, that’s the only thing I can think of,” Frances White, 88, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning.
As the search for Vicky White and 38-year-old Casey Cole White (no relation) stretches into its fifth day, her late husband’s family doesn’t know what to think. Frances White said her son, Thomas White, died in January from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
“I’m just proud he wasn’t still alive, cause he still thought she was a good person,” she said. “I can’t imagine her running off with that guy, but you never know. He walked into a woman’s house and stabbed her.”
Casey White was awaiting trial at the Lauderdale County Jail after confessing to stabbing 58-year-old Connie Ridgeway to death in 2015. The six-foot-nine White, who pleaded not guilty to killing Ridgeway, had already been sentenced in 2019 to 75 years for a crime spree in Limestone County that same year for attempting to gun down his ex-girlfriend, stealing an SUV, shooting and killing a dog, and taking three hostages.
“He stated that he wanted to kill her and have the police kill him,” said a police report from the case. “His only regret was that neither was successful. He stated that if he was released he would kill the victim.”
Vicky White, who had an “unblemished record,” according to Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton, was last seen on April 29, leaving the county jail with Casey White to take him to court for a mental health evaluation. Casey White was handcuffed and shackled in the back of her patrol car, said Singleton. But Vicky White had committed a serious breach of protocol by transporting Casey White solo, contravening a policy put in place to have two sworn deputies with him during any movements following the discovery in 2020 of an escape plan he was allegedly concocting.
Vicky White said she was headed to a doctor’s appointment after dropping Casey White off. However, Singleton said Casey White did not have an evaluation scheduled for that day, and Vicky White never showed up at the medical facility. Her patrol car was later found abandoned in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center. After first saying that investigators were looking into whether Vicky White willingly helped Casey White escape, or if she had been threatened or coerced into it, Singleton said Monday that “indications are” that she was in on it.
A press release issued Tuesday by the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department said there had been a “special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White. That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”
On Tuesday, Frances White was still racking her brain trying to make sense of what happened.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out what made her do it,” she told The Daily Beast. “Somebody said, ‘Maybe she was just having a bad day.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s not an excuse.’”
The two had six hours to get away, White continued, “So, they’re not around here.”
“I don’t have any idea where she is,” she said, noting that her former daughter-in-law had spoken about eventually retiring to Florida.
Vicky White had just submitted her retirement papers the day before she disappeared, and her mom told local news outlet WAAY that nothing seemed out of the ordinary on their last morning together. About five weeks ago, she sold the home she had shared with her late husband and moved in with her mother. News reports described Vicky as flush with cash from the sale, but Frances White said she spent years socking away cash and would have plenty of it on hand.
“She had money before she sold her home,” Frances White told The Daily Beast. “She saved her money. I figure if she’s still got her money, she’s still got enough to live on for a while.”
Casey White faces the death penalty if convicted of Ridgeway’s murder. He “doesn’t have anything to lose, she’s got everything to lose,” said Frances White, who added, “I don’t think that man’s got any feelings for anybody.”
In the aftermath of Friday’s escape, Ridgeway’s son, Austin Williams, called Casey White a “monster.” Vicky White was armed at the time, and Singleton said Casey White should now be considered armed and dangerous. An arrest warrant for Vicky White, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, has been issued on charges of permitting or aiding escape in the first degree. Casey White is wanted on one count of second-degree escape. A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to their capture.
The case brings to mind another infamous jailbreak carried out with the assistance of a female prison employee. Joyce Mitchell, a prison seamstress, spent more than four years behind bars for helping two inmates break out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, in 2015. Mitchell, who had been having an affair with one of the men, was released in 2020.
Frances White’s two surviving sons are in just as much shock as she is, she said: “They can’t believe it either. My oldest son, no way could he picture her leaving with him… It looks like she helped him escape.”
Everybody in the family is hoping someone will come forward with a lead, she said.
“You know, there’s a $10,000 reward out, and somebody will tell them something,” she said. “I thought if she had talked to anybody, maybe they would come forward to get that money… Maybe he’s got her brainwashed. But I don’t know how he’d have had a chance to get her brainwashed, because he was in prison.”