When news first broke on April 29, 2022, that an Alabama prisoner named Casey Cole White had gone missing from custody—and that corrections officer Vicky White, last seen picking him up for a purported courthouse meeting, was also nowhere to be found—all signs pointed to a story that wouldn't end well for anyone involved.
"Knowing the inmate, I think she's in danger, whatever the circumstances," Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton told reporters that night. "He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose." (Casey White, no relation to Vicky, was serving a 75-year prison sentence for other crimes and was awaiting trial on capital murder charges, to which he'd pleaded not guilty.)
According to investigators, Vicky, whom Singleton called an "exemplary employee" and whom colleagues thought of as a "mother figure," had checked Casey out of county jail that morning. She had said that the inmate was due for a mental health evaluation at the Lauderdale County Courthouse and she was going to drop him off on her way to seek medical attention because she wasn't feeling well.
No such evaluation was on the court schedule, nor would they find any record of Vicky having a medical appointment.
Furthermore, according to Singleton, at least two deputies were supposed to escort Casey at all times, including during transports—ever since authorities learned in 2020 that the inmate was allegedly hatching an escape plan involving a hostage.
On May 2, 2022, Singleton confirmed at a news conference that authorities believed Vicky had "participated" in Casey's escape and a warrant was out for her arrest.
"Whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened, we're not really sure, but we know for sure she did participate," the sheriff said.
Whatever the circumstances were, he added, "This is not the Vicky White we know by any stretch of the imagination. Everybody thought she was going to retire. Nobody saw this coming."
A week later, Casey, now 40, was back behind bars—"He will stay in handcuffs and shackles while he is in that cell...He is not getting out of this jail again," Singleton said on TODAY May 10, 2022—and Vicky was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 56.
But many questions remained about what happened—and why—during the 11 days the pair were on the run.
The investigation into the nature of Vicky's relationship with Casey continued, with detectives ultimately concluding that she masterminded his escape because she had fallen for the inmate.
"In total, there were approximately 1,100 phone calls between the two of them that we've discovered," Lauderdale County Sheriff's Sgt. Matt Burbank said on 20/20's Oct. 6 episode. Moreover, he explained, "Vicky was the supervisor of the jail. Vicky, she managed manpower. She was able to pull guards away. And she had the authority to make that happen."
What ultimately set her down this road is also the subject of the new Lifetime movie Bad Romance: The Vicky White Story, starring Wendi McLendon-Covey as the law enforcement veteran whose baffling last act sent her community reeling.
"I feel like the most hated man in the world," Casey told the court in June, per WHNT, when he was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree escape, in exchange for prosecutors dropping a felony murder charge for Vicky's death. "I loved Vicky and I wouldn't drag her name through the mud for anyone in this courtroom. Vicky took me out because she said, 'Right was right, wrong is wrong.' First person to show me affection. First person to give me a hug in six years."
But this is the picture that took shape after their foiled escape came to its disturbing conclusion:
Who Was Vicky White?
Vicky had put in her retirement papers after 17 years as a corrections officer, most recently serving as an assistant director with the department. But the paperwork was never finalized, according to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, which on May 4, 2022, relayed that April 29 had been Vicky's last day on the job and she was no longer a county employee.
Documents showed that she had finalized the sale of her home on April 18, 2022, for $95,550—more than $140,000 less than the estimated value of the four-acre property, according to public records.
"She would come home after work, eat supper at my house, and pick up her dog. She'd walk her dog and that was her routine every day," Pat Davis, Vicky's mother, told CNN. Vicky had been staying with her mom since selling her house and last talked to her the day she went missing with Casey.
Investigators later found surveillance footage showing Vicky checking out of a Quality Inn the morning she disappeared.
Vicky had talked about moving to the beach, Singleton said during the May 2 news conference announcing her arrest warrant. Her colleagues had been planning to throw her a retirement party on the day she disappeared.
"They're just devastated," Singleton told Al.com on May 5, 2022, referring to Vicky's stunned co-workers. "We brought counselors in for the employees. Corrections officers are the real unsung heroes of the criminal justice system with what they have to put up with day in and day out. And it's a very tough job. And it's not just anybody can do that job. To find one as good as Vicky White was just rare— someone who could make a career out of it."
Why Was Casey White in Jail?
According to investigators, Vicky seemingly first came into contact with Casey Cole White in 2020, when he was brought to the Lauderdale County jail for his arraignment on capital murder charges at the nearby courthouse. Afterward, he was taken back to prison, but he and Vicky kept in touch by phone.
Since 2019 he had been serving a 75-year sentence at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Ala., after being convicted of attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering a vehicle, animal cruelty and attempting to elude police—all stemming from a one-night, multistate crime spree. According to the charges against him, on Dec. 1, 2015, Casey committed a home invasion and two carjackings, and was involved in multiple shootings that left a dog dead and a woman injured. He tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and took her two roommates hostage, authorities said.
Prosecutors announced Sept. 1, 2020, that Casey had admitted to authorities in a prison interview over the summer that he was paid to kill 59-year-old Connie Ridgeway, a mother of two who had been found stabbed to death in her Rogersville, Ala., living room on Oct. 23, 2015. He seemed to have knowledge of the crime that was not previously reported.
"This was a horrible case," Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly told reporters at the time. "Certainly, the longer a case remains unsolved, the dimmer the hope is that you may be able to solve it."
Casey was transported back to the Lauderdale County jail in February to await trial, which was set to begin in June. He had since recanted his confession and pleaded not guilty to counts of committing murder for hire and murder during the commission of a burglary.
Early on in the search for him and Vicky, Sheriff Singleton advised the public and his fellow law enforcement officers that the 6-foot-9, 260-pound prisoner was "extremely dangerous." If they should encounter him, "don't take any chances," he said. "He has nothing to lose."
As for Vicky, Singleton said, "Whether she assisted him or not we don't know, and we won't address that until we have absolute proof that that's what happened. We are assuming at this point that she was taken against her will unless we can absolutely prove otherwise. But regardless, even if she did assist him, we think she's in danger."
Casey White and Vicky White's "Special Relationship"
On May 3, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office confirmed that investigators had uncovered a "special relationship" between the missing duo.
Singleton told CNN that they had learned from myriad sources, including through tips from Casey's fellow inmates, that the prisoner and Vicky's relationship was "of a different nature" and extended "outside of her normal working hours."
"We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates," the sheriff said.
"Obviously there was a side to Vicky White that we weren't aware of," he continued. "She has coordinated this and taken advantage of her knowledge of the system and played it to her advantage and, you know, it's made it very difficult."
Vicky's responsibilities had included coordinating all inmate transport from the county lockup to the courthouse.
In a later interview, Singleton concluded to CNN that Vicky was "basically the mastermind behind the whole plan...[Casey] really couldn't plan too much behind bars. Personally, I think she was the one to put the plan together."
D.A. Connolly, who'd known Vicky for 17 years, called her "the most solid person at the jail," telling CNN that he "never would have thought that in a million years" she'd be mixed up in this sort of trouble.
Pat Davis, Vicky's mom, told CNN affiliate WAAY, "As a mother, I didn't know how to act because I thought at first it was a mistake. And then when I found out for sure... It was just disbelief."
"The whole thing has been a nightmare," Davis said. "I just want my daughter to come home. And to come home alive."
What Happened During the 11 Days Casey and Vicky Were on the Run?
According to authorities, Vicky left the jail with Casey at 9:41 a.m. on April 29, 2022, a Friday. Shortly after 11 a.m., her 2013 Ford Taurus patrol car was spotted parked at a nearby shopping center in Florence, Ala.
A 2007 rust-colored Ford Edge that Vicky had recently purchased was also found later that day by sheriff's deputies in Tennessee, about 85 miles away from the Alabama state line, but there was no identifying information on the SUV and it was towed without being immediately connected to the fugitives. (Nor did investigators yet know about the Edge.)
A booking officer at the county jail told another corrections official at 3:30 p.m. that Vicky couldn't be reached. Calls were going straight to voicemail. After it was confirmed Casey had never returned to the jail since leaving with Vicky that morning, the state issued a Blue Alert, a notice of a violent attack on a law enforcement officer and an active search for the suspect.
"She scheduled the van transport that morning, made sure all the other armed deputies were out of the building and tied up in court," Singleton later told CNN. "Knew the booking officer wouldn't question her, the assistant director, when she told her she was going to take him to court and drop him off with other employees."
Moreover, he said, she "purchased the getaway car, she sold her house, got her hands on cash, she went shopping, bought clothes for him."
Authorities uncovered her purchase of the Ford Edge on May 1, their first significant lead. They later learned that, after ditching the Edge in Tennessee on April 29, the duo paid $6,000 cash for a black Ford F-150 pickup truck that same day.
A police officer in Evansville, Ind., saw the truck parked in the area on May 2 while doing a routine check for stolen vehicles and ran the license plate—but it hadn't been stolen, so nothing came up.
James Stinson, the manager of a carwash in Evansville, later recalled to Al.com that he "got a weird feeling" about the F-150 when he spotted it sitting for hours in one of the business' self-washing bays. Taking a closer look on the afternoon of May 3, he realized the doors were unlocked, the windows were open and the keys were in the ignition.
He called police and they ran the license plate—but again, since the truck wasn't reported stolen no further action was taken and law enforcement didn't consider the vehicle abandoned until it had been left for 48 hours.
After having police out to run the plates a second time, getting the same result, Stinson had the vehicle towed from the carwash May 4, Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin later told reporters.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Singleton told Al.com on May 5, "They've had six days now. We're having to do a nationwide search. And we've got boots on the ground across the country, following up on tips and leads for us through the U.S. Marshal's fugitive task force. So it's just a matter of time. We'll get them. Obviously, the sooner the better."
He said he didn't think the fugitives were in Alabama anymore, but, he added, "We don't really have a clue where they're at."
"I don't know what their game plan was," Singleton said. "It's obvious this was very well planned out. It could be they're just holed up somewhere waiting for things to die down."
Chad Hunt, commander of the U.S. Marshal's Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, told CNN on May 5 that they'd received more than 200 tips in two days. "We're seeing stuff coming in from the Northwest down to the Southwest to the Northeast and everything in between...and we have to look at every single one," he said.
On May 6, authorities announced they'd found the Ford Edge at a tow lot in Williamson County, Tenn. The driver who'd towed it a week prior, on April 29, had seen a TV report about the escape and remembered the vehicle. He told his boss, who called police.
"It really doesn't leave us a lot, we just know what direction they were headed, they headed north from here," Singleton said of the development. "After Friday afternoon, when they abandoned that car, which direction they went from there, we don't know."
The Search Ends Quickly but Violently
Local, state and federal law enforcement eventually caught up with Casey and Vicky in Evansville, about 270 miles away from where they started in Florence, Ala.
Authorities learned about the purchase of the F-150 and U.S. marshals tracked the vehicle to its pre-tow perch at the carwash on Monday, May 9. As Stinson, the manager, recalled to Al.com, security footage from May 3 showed a man matching Casey's description near the truck, then getting into a gray Cadillac eight minutes later. A woman was behind the wheel.
Hours later on May 9, an Evansville cop on patrol spotted the Cadillac—also purchased, not stolen—parked in the lot of Motel 41, an establishment sitting in plain sight on U.S. Route 41, a major highway.
"After six days, it was just hard to believe they were here," Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding later told reporters on May 10. "I wouldn't think somebody on the run would stay in a community like Evansville for six days."
Casey told authorities "that he was just trying to find a place to hide out, and lay low," Wedding shared. "They thought they had driven long enough. They wanted to stop for a while, get their bearings straight until they figured out the next place to travel."
He and Vicky had arrived at the motel on May 2 and paid for 14 days, paying a transient man to check in for them. Wedding said the unidentified third person was not considered an accomplice and wasn't facing charges. A motel employee told NBC News that those infamous names were not registered at the front desk and "nobody knew they were escaped or fugitives or none of that stuff until yesterday, when they got caught."
On May 9, according to Wedding, once the Cadillac was spotted, members of the fugitive task force set up surveillance outside the motel, which is located barely a mile from the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office.
They weren't there long when the pair got into their car and headed north on the highway with at least six law enforcement cars in pursuit. They passed the Evansville Regional Airport, cut through the parking lot of an awning supply company and headed across a field. One of the pursuing vehicles saw an opportunity and purposefully rammed into the Cadillac, which rolled into a ditch at the edge of the road.
And that's where the minutes-long chase ended, hardly two miles from the motel.
An audio recording of a 911 call that began seconds before the crash, released by Evansville police and obtained by NBC News and CNN, caught Vicky saying, "Air bags going off. Let's get out and run. Should have stayed at the...hotel." Several unintelligible noises could be heard, as well as what sounded like a woman's shriek, followed by another, all of it within the first minute of tape. At one minute and 40 seconds in, someone says, "She is breathing" and "got a gun in her hand."
According to USA Today, body cam footage showed first responders removing a gun from Vicky's hand before extracting her from the car.
Casey was treated for minor injuries and taken into custody, but Vicky had a gunshot wound to the head and was transported to Deaconess Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m. CT.
"Casey quickly surrendered, and his immediate words to our team was, 'Please help my wife. She just shot herself in the head and I didn't do it,'" Hunt, from the U.S. Marshal's regional fugitive task force, told CBS News. (No evidence has been found that they were married.)
The Vanderburgh County Coroner's Office has since said that Vicky's fatal wound was self-inflicted and determined the manner of death to be suicide.
Vanderburgh Sheriff Wedding said at a May 10 press conference that they found roughly $29,000 in the car, presumably left over from Vicky's home sale, as well as camping and survival gear, several ladies' wigs, four loaded handguns, a loaded AR-15 style-rifle, extra ammunition for each weapon, and Vicky's duty belt with her Taser and handcuffs.
Casey has told authorities that he was "probably going to have a shootout at the stake of both of them losing their lives," Wedding said.
Asked if Casey had shown any sign of remorse for Vicky's death, the sheriff replied, "No."
Where Is Casey White Now?
Casey was booked into the Vanderburgh County Jail on May 9, 2022, but waived extradition to Alabama and was arraigned in Lauderdale County Court on the night of May 10 on an additional charge of escape in the first degree. He was then taken back to maximum-security prison in Bessemer.
"The daily or hourly activities of this fugitive couple might take weeks or months to sort through, but the critical part of this case for the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office has been settled," Wedding's incident report concluded. "Two dangerous criminals have been captured and no innocent civilians or law enforcement personnel were seriously injured during the process."
At the May 10 press conference, Wedding called the investigation into what was really going on between Casey and Vicky ongoing.
But from what authorities had gleaned so far, he said, Casey "was not forcing her. It was a mutual relationship."
In a May 11 letter to media outlets obtained by E! News, Lauderdale County Sheriff Singleton compared the search to "looking for a needle in a haystack" and expressed his appreciation for the multi-agency teamwork and thanks for all the coverage of the manhunt. As far as he was concerned, the attention "forced [the fugitives] to settle in and lay low which gave us the time we needed to develop leads and receive information that, in fact, eventually led us to them."
Reflecting on the fraught 11 days just passed, Singleton also told NBC News, "This is probably the most bizarre thing I've ever been involved in. I've seen a lot of stuff over my career. This is not the first escape that I've been involved in. But I've never seen anything that was calculated and planned and executed the way this escape was."
When Casey was given a life sentence for the escape, his attorney Mark McDaniel said this was a case unlike any he'd ever seen.
"As good as Vicky was, as kind as she might've been," McDaniel said in court, per WHNT, "she had a key to get [Casey] out. He didn't have it. She did."
The capital murder case that was pending against Casey was suspended in July, prosecutors hitting pause since they already had him where they intended for him to stay.
Bad Romance: The Vicky White Story premieres Saturday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.
(Originally published May 15, 2022, at 5 a.m. PT)