Sold homes, cars and a jailhouse romance: Inside how America’s latest manhunt unfolded
It was about three hours after sheriff’s officials in Alabama realised a capital murder suspect and a senior jail official who had taken him for a mental health evaluation had disappeared when Sheriff Rick Singleton called in the US marshals.
- Vicky White used her position as corrections officer to help Casey White escape
- The escape appeared to be well-planned and calculated
- The pair had been on the run since April 29
At first, law enforcement officials believed the suspect, Casey White, might have kidnapped Vicky White, the assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County and a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office but they quickly learned that her cover story was phoney — the mental health evaluation was made up — and a manhunt began.
US Marshal Marty Keely sprung the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force into action. The fugitive hunters hit the streets and quickly started gathering leads.
Mr Keely’s account of the 11-day search, in an interview with The Associated Press, is the most detailed and comprehensive account to date of the US Marshals Service investigation in a nationwide manhunt that ended with Vicky White dead, Casey White back in custody and law enforcement agencies trying to piece together how the escape could have happened.
Coworker’s tip off leads to surveillance video
The task force received its first lead early in the investigation when a fellow jail worker reported that Vicky White had called them and asked the coworker to pick her up at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store.
Ms White said she had locked her keys in her car and needed a ride to work, Keely said. The employee thought it was strange, they would later tell investigators, but wanted to help out a friend.
In the parking lot of the sporting goods store, investigators found Vicky White’s patrol car — the same vehicle in which she left the sheriff’s office hours earlier with a handcuffed Casey White in the back seat, according to Keely.
It was also where surveillance video showed she had stashed a getaway vehicle, an orange Ford Edge she had purchased just days before the escape with a fistful of cash.
Family reveal ‘jailhouse romance’
The investigators interviewed family members and coworkers, examined financial and other records and learned from other inmates that Vicky White had a “special relationship” with Casey and the two were involved in a “jailhouse romance,” officials have said.
The escape plan involved a fake mental health evaluation off the jail grounds.(Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office)
Weeks before the escape she sold her house for US£95,000 (£135,617), far below the market value, sold her car and filed for retirement, Keely said.
Other clues also emerged: She bought men’s clothes at a local Kohl’s store and had also visited a store that sold sex toys.
Surveillance video showing Vicky White and Casey White getting into a sheriff’s vehicle and driving away, April 29 2022.(Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office)
Tow truck driver’s call
The search was on for a hulking fugitive, a jailer and their orange car but investigators had no idea the duo had already made it out of state and were more than 300km away.
Tips flowed in to the Marshals Service and sheriff’s officials but nothing panned out until a tow truck driver from Tennessee called.
He had towed the Ford Edge three or four days earlier and it was still in his lot, Keely said.
The getaway car was found on the roadside in the town of Bethesda, Tenessee. (US Marshall Office)
The task force investigators rushed north to Williamson County, Tennessee. They had the right car, but the next question was where were Vicky and Casey?
Authorities scoured rural Tennessee looking for clues and showing photos of Vicky and Casey. They discovered a home with a few cars and trucks for sale on the lawn, Keely said.
The home owner instantly recognised a photo of Casey White and helped authorities piece together what had happened.
He told investigators he sold Mr White a Ford F-150 pick-up truck for cash.
The truck didn’t have license plates, but Mr White didn’t care, the man told authorities.
During the sale, a woman in an orange Ford pulled up and the two drove off trailing one another, the man told authorities. And the home owner provided one more clue — the pick-up truck’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, according to Keely.
The two abandoned the Ford Edge and made their way to Evansville, Indiana, where Casey White eventually abandoned the pick-up in the bay of a car wash.
A tip from the public led investigators to Indiana where they caught up with Casey White and Vicky White.(Supplied: US Marshals Service)
In Evansville, investigators believe, the two paid a homeless man to use his identification to rent them a hotel room, paying cash up-front for a 14-day stay. They were living under assumed names in the motel and had acquired a third car, a Cadillac sedan.
The manager of the car wash first noticed the abandoned pick-up truck on Tuesday, May 3 and realised something was amiss when it was still there the next morning.
He called the police, and an officer came out, ran the license plates, took a report and left.
The car wasn’t stolen and to the local police, there was nothing they could do.
Short pursuit ends in tragedy
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A break came on Sunday because the officer had written the VIN in a report. Keely’s team spotted it as they checked databases. The fugitive team descended on Evansville, working with fellow deputy marshals in Indiana.
Surveillance video from the car wash showed the Cadillac.
Task force investigators began driving around checking out motels and restaurant parking lots, Keely said.
Eventually, they found the car at a local motel and placed it under surveillance. Vicky White soon emerged in a wig, alongside the 6-foot-9 Casey, Keely said. They hopped in the Cadillac and drove off with the marshals secretly tailing them, but the officers were seen, according to Keely.
The brief pursuit ended when the officers rammed the car.
The Cadillac flipped over and, at some point, Vicky White shot herself in the head, authorities said.
As officers pulled them from the wreckage, Casey White blurted out, “please help my wife, she just shot herself in the head,” Keely said.
It wasn’t clear why he referred to Vicky as his wife.
Investigators quickly cuffed him and started rendering aid to Vicky as medical crews rushed to the scene.
The manhunt was over.
More charges for attempted murderer
Vicky White was pronounced dead at the hospital and Casey White was returned on Tuesday night to Alabama, where he was expected to face additional charges, in addition to the murder case and the 75-year prison sentence he was already serving for attempted murder and other charges.
If convicted in the murder trial, he could face the death penalty.
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