Recaptured Alabama fugitive Casey White intended to have a shootout with law enforcement, and would have done so had pursuing officers not forced White to wreck in a ditch Monday in Evansville, Indiana, a sheriff said Tuesday.
“Had we not (forced him into the ditch), the fugitive was going to engage in a shootout with law enforcement,” Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding told reporters, citing White’s interviews with investigators after his capture.
“That action may have saved many of my deputies’ (and other officers’) lives,” Wedding said.
Investigators found guns and about $29,000 in cash in the White vehicle was driving Monday, Wedding said.
A coroner will confirm whether Vicky White shot herself, Wedding said.
“(Casey White) said he was probably going to have a shootout at the stake of both of them losing their lives,” Wedding said.
[Original story, published at 12:21 p.m ET]
By the time the chase ended in a wreck and officers approached the car, Vicky White “was unconscious with a gunshot wound to her head, and (Casey White) gave up without incident,” Dave Wedding, sheriff of Indiana’s Vanderburgh County, told CNN on Tuesday.
Authorities preliminarily “believe that she may have taken her own life, but we will wait until the coroner’s office examines the body to make a confirmation,” Wedding said.
That ended a manhunt that began April 29, the day authorities say Vicky White, 56, let murder defendant Casey White, 38, out of the Alabama jail where she was about to retire as assistant corrections director.
In dispatch audio from Evansville police, a dispatcher noted during Monday’s chase that “we could hear her on the line saying she had her finger on the trigger.” The dispatcher earlier can be heard saying “they’re calling into 911.”
It’s not clear who made the 911 call. Authorities have not released the audio that they believe contains White’s voice.
Investigators looking for the pair — who investigators said were not related — zeroed in on Evansville following a tip that came from the public Sunday, said Rick Singleton, sheriff of Alabama’s Lauderdale County and Vicky White’s former boss.
Officers conducting surveillance spotted Vicky White exiting a hotel Monday with a wig on, US Marshal Marty Keely said. 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. Casey White and Vicky White were not married to investigators’ knowledge, Keely said.
No law enforcement officers fired any shots during the chase, according to Singleton.
“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,” Singleton said Monday.
Casey White waives extradition hearing
In jail in Indiana Tuesday, Casey White waived his right to an extradition hearing.
“I want to go back to Alabama,” Casey White, wearing a yellow jumpsuit and orange slides, said while appearing virtually before a judge from Indiana’s Vanderburgh County jail.
When he returns to Alabama, he will immediately go before a judge for an arraignment, and then be transferred to state Department of Corrections custody instead of county custody, Singleton said Tuesday.
Casey White has been speaking freely with investigators after his capture, Wedding said Tuesday.
“He was pretty candid with the investigators last night. They had a fairly lengthy interview,” Wedding said.
Tip led to their capture
The officer and inmate are believed to have been in Evansville since May 3, Wedding said.
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 “was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan,” Singleton said Tuesday.
“He was behind bars. He really couldn’t plan too much behind bars, but, yes, I think — personally, I think she was the one to put the plan together,” he told CNN’s John Berman on Tuesday.
As the second in command at the detention center, White used her position to execute the plan, Singleton said.
“She scheduled the van transport that morning, made sure all the other armed deputies were out of the building and tied up in court. Knew the booking officer wouldn’t question her … when she told her she was going to take him to court and drop him off with other employees,” Singleton said.
“She arranged — purchased the getaway car, she sold her house, got her hands on cash, she went shopping, bought clothes for him. She just — she just obviously put the plan together,” Singleton said.
“Casey White didn’t escape from the facility; he was basically just let out,” the sheriff said.
Vicky White’s years of law enforcement expertise presented unique difficulties for authorities.
“This escape was obviously well planned and calculated,” Singleton said Monday, 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.
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 operated 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.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the location of Vanderburgh County; it is in Indiana. The story also had the wrong first name for US Marshal Marty Keely.
CNN’s Nadia Romero, Jamiel Lynch, Jenn Selva, Amara Walker and Jade Gordon contributed to this report.