A murder suspect and a Sheriff's Deputy are both missing — and nobody knows if it is a kidnapping or a plotted escape.
Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office employee Vicki White and inmate Casey Cole White — who are not related — have not been seen since 9:30 AM Friday morning. No one noticed they had disappeared until 6 hours later.
Officer White, who is the assistant director of corrections and a veteran of 25 years, left the detention center on Friday morning with the prisoner, telling the booking officer she was escorting him to the courthouse for a mental health evaluation. She said that after dropping him off, she planned to seek medical attention because she didn't feel well.
According to Sheriff Rick Singleton, Deputy White's marked 2013 Ford Taurus patrol car was found abandoned in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center at around 11am Friday. But the alarm was not raised until 3.30 PM that day.
It was only when the booking officer tried to contact Officer White by phone, but kept getting sent to voicemail, did they realize something was amiss. They realized Casey White never showed up at the courthouse, and never returned to jail.
They also realized he had no mental health evaluations scheduled that day, WVTM reported. After calling local urgent care centers, there was no record of Officer White checking in, either.
The Sheriff's Office issued a blue alert. "Casey White is being held on capital murder charges," it warned. "If anyone should spot them contact 911 immediately and DO NOT APPROACH!"
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At a news conference Friday, Sheriff Singleton said his deputy broke protocol by attempting to transport a suspected murderer alone, calling it a "strict violation of policy". A prisoner facing those kinds of charges must always be accompanied by at least two sworn deputies.
But because Officer White is so senior — and indeed is the one who coordinates all transports as head of operations — nobody questioned her.
Sheriff Singleton described her as "an exemplary employee" who had been considering retiring soon.
He admitted he does not know if she was kidnapped — or she helped the prisoner escape.
"Did she assist him in escaping? That's obviously a possibility," Singleton said, per The Independent. "So we're looking into that as one angle of the investigation — was she kidnapped en route to the courthouse and, you know, taken against her will?"
Either way, the Sheriff said her life is in danger, and they are working on the assumption inmate White is now in possession of her police issue 9mm handgun.
"Knowing the inmate, I think [Officer White] is in danger whatever the circumstances," Singleton said. "He was in jail for capital murder. He has nothing to lose."
White was being held on capital murder charges related to the 2015 fatal stabbing of 58-year-old mother Connie Ridgeway.
The case had been unsolved for five years until White — who was already in prison for a crime spree throughout Alabama and Tennessee — wrote a letter to authorities confessing to the killing.