Law enforcement officials were one step behind the fugitives from the get-go before finally tracking them down after 10 days on the run. Rachel Sharp explains the apparent missed opportunities in the manhunt
For 10 days, an inmate accused of capital murder and a female corrections officer with a previously unblemished record managed to dip under the radar of multiple law enforcement teams.
Armed with a trove of firearms, around $90,000 in cash and various coloured wigs as disguises, Casey Cole White, 38, and Vicky White, 56, travelled across at least four US states and switched getaway vehicles at least four times.
But the nationwide manhunt came to a dramatic end on Monday with a police chase, car crash and Ms White allegedly shooting herself dead.
On Tuesday, officials said that the Whites wanted to engage in shootout with police officers but authorities rammed the Cadillac they were driving off the road preventing them from carrying out their plan.
White surrendered to authorities while Ms White allegedly shot herself in the head, dying hours later from her injuries.
The couple, who are believed to have been in a romantic relationship for around two years, had finally been tracked down to a motel in Evansville, Indiana.
The net closed in on the couple after surveillance footage captured White at a car wash in Evansville last Tuesday – where one of the getaway vehicles was also abandoned.
But, according to the car wash owner, authorities failed to act on his tip about the vehicle for almost a week all the while the fugitives were holed up in a motel opposite the local sheriff’s office.
Law enforcement officials were one step behind the fugitives from the get-go with a six-hour gap before they were even noticed missing and a getaway car taking a week to identify.
Here are the some of the apparently missed opportunities that enabled the corrections officer and the inmate to slip through the net for 10 days:
A six-hour headstart
The fugitive lovers had a six-hour headstart on law enforcement from the start, after officials failed to notice them missing for several hours.
At around 9.30am on 29 April, Ms White picked the inmate up from Lauderdale County jail claiming that she was taking him for a mental health evaluation at Lauderdale County Courthouse.
She told her coworkers that once she had escorted him to court she was going to seek medical attention for herself as she felt unwell.
White had no scheduled court appearance or appointments that day.
Sheriff Singleton previously said that Ms White, who coordinated all inmate transportation, broke protocol by taking the inmate out of the jail alone.
Due to the severity of charges against the inmate – and a previous foiled prison break attempt back in 2020 – it was policy that he must be escorted by two sworn deputies at all times including during transportation to and from the courthouse.
However, the sheriff suspected that no one questioned Ms White over the breach of protocol because of her seniority.
And it was several more hours before the alarm was raised over the missing couple.
Ms White’s 2013 Ford Taurus patrol car was found abandoned in the parking lot of a shopping centre not far from the jail at around 11am that day.
Finally at around 3.30pm that afternoon, Ms White’s coworkers grew concerned that she hadn’t returned and they were unable to reach her by phone.
It was only then that they also realised that White had also not returned to jail.
Getaway car not linked to couple for a week
The first getaway car allegedly used by the couple was discovered just hours after they went on the run – but it took a week for officials to tie it to the Whites.
After leaving the jail in Ms White’s patrol car, the couple abandoned the vehicle in the parking lot of a nearby shopping centre and changed into their first getaway car – a rust-coloured 2007 Ford Edge.
Officials believe they were forced to switch vehicles quickly once more after the Ford Edge broke down.
On Friday, the US Marshals Service announced that the Ford Edge had been found along a rural road in Tennessee around a two hour drive north of the Lauderdale County jail.
The Ford Edge was actually located just hours after the pair disappeared and was taken to a tow lot in Williamson County – but its connection to the case was only realised on Friday.
Officials admitted that the time lapse in identifying the Ford Edge as the getaway car marked another “setback” in the manhunt.
Car wash tip not taken seriously
After taking a week to tie the Ford Edge to the missing inmate and corrections officer, officials also appeared to be slow in identifying their second getaway car – a 2006 Ford F-15 pickup truck.
The owner of a car wash in Evansville, Indiana, said that he reported the truck to police last week after finding it abandoned at his business, but they failed to take him seriously.
The sighting ultimately led to the capture of the couple.
James Stinson, owner of Weinbach Car Wash, toldNewsNationNow that he noticed the truck had Tennessee licence plates and alerted authorities.
But when an officer arrived on the scene they said they couldn’t do anything as the vehicle hadn’t been reported stolen, he said.
The business owner had the vehicle towed away himself last Wednesday.
Days later on Sunday, he said he was contacted by the US Marshals Service about the truck and he checked his surveillance footage, finding White on camera at his business last Tuesday.
On Monday, officials released the images, confirming White was the man in the images and that the vehicle was believed to have been used by the fugitives.
Evansville is about 175 miles north of Williamson County, Tennessee, where the couple abandoned the Ford Edge.
A US Marshal told WAAY that the second getaway vehicle had been reported missing near Nashville, Tennessee, sometime after the Ford Edge was found abandoned.
The vehicle had been left at the car wash, where officials say the couple switched into their fourth and final vehicle used during their time on the run – a Cadillac. This Cadillac was spotted just hours later at a nearby motel, sparking the police chase.
In Tuesday’s press conference, officials defended the lack of action taken over the car wash tip saying that an officer ran the plate back on 2 May but, because it wasn’t reported as stolen at that time, didn’t take action.
When the car wash owner also reported the vehicle two days later, the officer told him he would have to wait 48 hours before it could be towed or he could remove it on his own.
At that time, officials said there was no indication it was connected to the fugitives on the run from Alabama.
Fugitives staying in motel close to sheriff’s office
The fugitives were staying in a hotel just opposite the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office for the last week but managed to avoid detection until Monday.
Sheriff Wedding said that the couple had booked a 14-day stay at Motel 41 last week as they wanted “to lay low, hide out” after spending a lot of time on the road driving from Alabama.
After the footage from the car wash indicated to officials that the pair had changed into a Cadillac, a police officer spotted the vehicle in the parking lot of the motel on Monday.
Surveillance was set up there and the suspects were spotted exiting the hotel, getting into the Cadillac and driving away – leading to the police chase and capture.