EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The escaped inmate on the run with a former corrections officer who helped him flee returned to Alabama late Tuesday after an 11-day, multistate hunt for the fugitive couple.
Authorities brought Casey White, 38, to the courthouse in Lauderdale County, Alabama, from Evansville, Indiana, where he and former corrections officer Vicky White, 56, had been hiding out for days to figure out their next move before their capture, investigators said .
After numerous leads, abandoned vehicles and a car chase, Casey White surrendered Monday, but Vicky White died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, an autopsy report found. The former assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County sold her home to her and planned to retire the day she aided Casey White’s escape from the Alabama jail where she worked, police said.
Casey White appeared briefly in Lauderdale County court Tuesday evening. CNN reported Judge Ben Graves told White he would be charged with escape in the first degree. White was already serving a 75-year prison sentence for kidnapping and attempted murder charges, and he was also facing trial on a capital murder charge.
HOW IT HAPPENED:How Vicky White, Casey White eluded police, US marshals in 11-day manhunt
The couple evaded capture for over a week and a half with thousands of dollars in cash, several firearms and multiple vehicle swaps, according to police accounts of the search for the fugitives.
But new details continue to emerge on how Casey White and Vicky White managed to remain on the lam. An Indiana sheriff said Tuesday the pair was likely aided by a third person local to Evansville to rent a hotel room where they could lay low. A local car wash owner also said he alerted police days before their arrest that an abandoned truck eventually linked to the fugitives was on his property.
How the escape of Casey White and Vicky White unfolded
The hunt began after Vicky White allegedly told coworkers on April 29 she was taking Casey White from the Lauderdale County Correctional Facility to a courthouse appointment. No such appointment existed, and Vicky White was breaking department policy by transporting an inmate alone, authorities later said.
Alarms that the couple was missing were first raised later on April 29. Within days, investigators determined Vicky White was an accomplice. In what authorities said was a “jailhouse romance,” Casey White had been receiving special privileges other inmates did not get. The relationship was ongoing for two years, said Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton.
Two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation told the Associated Press that Vicky White had previously left the jail with Casey White for about 40 minutes in what investigators believe was a dry run for the escape.
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When they escaped April 29, Vicky White escorted Casey White into her patrol vehicle, surveillance video showed. The car was later found at a shopping center, and police said the couple switched vehicles to an orange Ford Edge that was later located in a Tennessee towing lot.
Truck tied to fugitives abandoned nearly a week before their arrest
Before news about the abandoned Ford Edge broke, Casey White and Vicky White had already ditched another vehicle, according to accounts from police and a car wash manager.
James Stinson, who has managed the car wash for 18 years, told the Evansville Courier & Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, law enforcement was slow to act on his concerns about an F-150 pickup he first noticed parked in a wash bay May 3 — the same day police now say Casey White and Vicky White abandoned the truck in Evansville.
“Normally I just call and have them towed,” Stinson said. “But something was suspicious about this.”
At a Tuesday news conference, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin said a vehicle Casey White and Vicky White used was spotted in the area May 2 when a police officer was doing a routine check of license plates in a parking lot to see whether any vehicles were reported stolen.
Police on May 4 went to Stinson’s car wash to check out the truck the manager had reported, Bolin said. When officers arrived, Stinson wasn’t present, and a check on the vehicle’s license plates did not indicate it was stolen or involved in a crime, said Evansville Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Gray.
When Stinson returned to the car wash, he called police again to inquire about the abandoned vehicle. When an officer returned and ran the license plates, Stinson said, the results were the same: nothing out of the ordinary regarding the vehicle.
At that point, Bolin and Gray said, police had not established any connection between the vehicle and the couple who had fled Alabama.
However, by Sunday, Gray said US Marshals told Evansville police the vehicle had been stolen and was possibly connected to a crime. Due to a miscommunication, officers initially thought the truck had been used to commit a crime in Kentucky.
Officers were still unsure Monday morning what crime the vehicle had been involved in, Gray said. Marshals eventually confirmed the Ford F-150 was likely linked to Casey White and Vicky White, and law enforcement soon descended on the car wash to secure evidence. Surveillance video showed a man matching Casey White’s description at the business near the pickup truck.
Third person aided Casey White and Vicky White, police and manager say
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said Casey White and Vicky White swapped the pickup truck with a Cadillac at the car wash and took off. Over the weekend, when it became clearer the couple had been in town, the investigator didn’t think they would still be in the area, Wedding said Tuesday.
However, a few miles from the car wash at Motel 41, Casey White and Vicky White had paid for up to a two-week stay. Wedding said Casey White later told detectives they were in Evansville to “get their bearings straight and then figure out their next place to travel,”
Wedding said Tuesday investigators believe a third person helped them check into the hotel. The sheriff previously said the couple had not prior ties to Evansville and didn’t comment on who might have helped them.
The Associated Press reported investigators believe the pair paid a homeless man to use his identification to check into the room and pay cash upfront for 14 days.
At the motel, manager Paul Shah insisted Casey White and Vicky White were visiting a local resident who was staying there. At first, he brushed off questions from the Courier & Press and said he did not check the couple in.
“(Casey White and Vicky White) were not officially registered guests here,” Shah said. “Somebody else checked in and they were visiting those people.”
Shah would not identify the renter, adding that the room is still occupied and is “still under that person’s name.”
“It’s a local person, but cops told me not to release anything until the whole investigation is done,” Shah said. The Courier & Press knocked on the door of the room Tuesday evening, but there was no answer.
Officer spotted Cadillac before fugitives were planning to leave town
Wedding said an Evansville police officer on Monday spotted the Cadillac in the parking lot of Motel 41 as the officer was out on patrol.
That prompted the fugitive task force to come to the hotel to keep eyes on the car, Wedding said. Once the task force spotted Casey White and Vicky White leaving the motel parking lot, the pursuit began.
Wedding said the car chase was brief. Police rammed the pair’s car, which ran into a ditch and flipped. As officers approached, Vicky White shot herself, Wedding said.
Police later recovered $29,000, four handguns, an AR-15, Vicky White’s duty belt, camping equipment and other personal effects, Wedding said.
“They were leaving to get out of Evansville,” the sheriff said, adding, “It’s my belief they thought, ‘We’ve been here long enough. We’ve got to get out.’”
Casey White told detectives he was armed with several firearms and intended to start shooting during the chase, but his car being flipped prevented him, Wedding said. Officers quick action likely saved other officers’ lives, Wedding added.
Dashcam video released by the Evansville Police Department of the arrest shows several armed law enforcement officials dragging Casey White on the ground away from the flipped car. The video shows them pinning White down before walking him, handcuffed, to a police car and holding him against it.
In body cam footage of first responders extracting Vicky White from the car, officers remove a gun from her hand before pulling her out.
She later died at a local hospital, according to the coroner’s office.
Contributing: Celina Tebor and Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY