A tip among hundreds led police to capture Vicky White and Casey White. But her death leaves many questions

Originally Published: 10 MAY 22 04:04 ET
Updated: 10 MAY 22 06:36 ET

    (CNN) -- The nationwide search for a former Alabama corrections officer and the inmate she disappeared with ended Monday when Vicky White died after being hospitalized for a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

Vicky White, 56, and Casey White, 38, were captured by authorities in Evansville, Indiana, following a car chase with authorities who tracked them down following a tip that came from the public Sunday, Lauderdale County, Alabama, Sheriff Rick Singleton said. It was one of hundreds of tips officials combed through in the 11 days after Vicky White helped Casey White escape jail.

Officers conducting surveillance spotted Vicky White exiting a hotel with a wig on, according to US Marshal Matt Keely. Then, she and Casey White got into a car and drove away.

Authorities continued to watch them until a vehicle pursuit began, ending when a US Marshals task force member drove a vehicle into the Cadillac the pair were in. The car wrecked and rolled over, Keely said. Casey White was driving the car, according to the US Marshals.

Officers were able to remove the inmate from the wrecked car, but Vicky White was pinned inside with a gunshot wound to her head, Keely said.

Casey White reportedly told authorities to help "his wife" who had shot herself in the head and told them he didn't do it, according to Keely. As far as investigators know, Casey White and Vicky White were not married, Keely noted, and investigators previously said they weren't related.

No law enforcement officers fired any shots during the chase, according to Singleton.

The pair's capture brought to a close a lengthy manhunt that gained widespread attention. But for those close to Vicky White who were hoping for an explanation for her unexpected disappearance and motives, plenty of questions remain unresolved.

As details emerged throughout the investigation suggesting Vicky White planned to aid the inmate, who authorities believe she had a romantic relationship with, in his escape, her family and colleagues were stunned.

On Monday, before Vicky White died, Singleton said she and Casey White would be brought back to Alabama for an arraignment.

"She has some answers to give us," he said. "What in the world provoked her, prompted her to pull a stunt like this, I don't know. I don't know if we'll ever know."

Tip led to their capture

The officer and inmate are believed to have been in Evansville since May 3, Sheriff Dave Wedding of Vanderburgh County, Illinois, told CNN.

Sunday night, investigators were told a 2006 Ford F-150 had been discovered at a car wash in Evansville, which is about 175 miles north of Williamson County, Tennessee, where the pair is believed to have abandoned a vehicle they drove away in after ditching Vicky White's patrol car near the jail. Marshals traveled to Indiana to pursue the lead, the service said.

Investigators released photos Monday of a person they believe is Casey White caught on surveillance camera at the car wash. Vicky White is not seen in the images.

The pair initially disappeared April 29 when Vicky White said she was taking Casey White to the courthouse for a mental evaluation. But they never arrived at the courthouse and authorities later discovered they drove to a shopping center parking lot, abandoned the officer's patrol car and escaped in a vehicle Vicky White staged there the night before, officials said.

Casey White will be brought back to Alabama, where he was facing murder charges before his escape and already serving a 75-year sentence for other crimes. Before her death, Vicky White was charged with permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree, in addition to forgery and identity theft charges connected to her use of an alias to purchase the 2007 Ford Edge the pair initially escaped in, officials said.

The veteran officer has been described by Singleton as "an exemplary employee" with an "unblemished record" who had the trust and respect of her colleagues. As the investigation unfolded, the sheriff acknowledged her apparent behavior is inconsistent with the person her colleagues thought they knew.

"Obviously there was a side to Vicky White that we weren't aware of," he told CNN previously.

Search was challenging for investigators

Vicky White's years of law enforcement expertise presented unique difficulties for authorities.

"This escape was obviously well planned and calculated," Singleton said, noting that escapes from county jails are usually spontaneous. "A lot of preparation went into this. They had plenty of resources, had cash, had vehicles, had everything they needed to pull this off, and that's what made this last week and a half so challenging. We were starting from ground zero, and not only that ... they got a six-hour head start on us."

Investigators previously released video of Vicky White at a Quality Inn in Florence, Alabama, where they say she stayed the night before the escape. Singleton also said they have footage of her shopping for men's clothing at a department store and at an "adult store," adding that she "obviously had a change of clothes" for the inmate.

Before her disappearance, Vicky White submitted her retirement papers, sold her home for well below market value and purchased the car the pair would use to escape, officials have said.

The day of the disappearance was set to be her last day of work, but her retirement papers were never finalized, according to Singleton. The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office announced last week that she was no longer employed there.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly, who said he worked with the officer almost daily for 17 years, told CNN last week he "would have trusted her with my life."

"I am so disappointed in her," he said. "She was trusted and she exploited that trust."

Counselors will be made available at the Lauderdale County Detention Center for staff who may need them after Vicky White's death, according to Singleton.

"It's a small agency, like family," he told CNN. "Some of these younger deputies she was like a mother figure to them and I know they're going to take it hard."

Casey White will likely need to return to the detention center in the future for court hearings related to his murder charges. Singleton said the inmate will be isolated in a cell.

"He's going to stay in chains and handcuffs and when he leaves that facility, I guarantee you there's going to be two deputies with him," he said. "And he's not going to get out of this jail again. I don't want him here any longer than he has to be."

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