Alabama authorities are searching for a corrections officer and a murder suspect who were last seen on Friday leaving the jail for what should have been a three-minute drive to the county courthouse for an appointment that turned out not to exist, officials said.
The officer, Vicki White, who is the assistant director of corrections, left the Lauderdale County Jail at 9:41 a.m. to take the inmate, Casey White, for a mental health evaluation at the county courthouse in Florence, Ala., just outside Muscle Shoals.
However, no such appointment existed, the sheriff, Rick Singleton, said in a news conference on Friday.
“She was alone, which was a strict violation of policy,” he said. Mr. White, who was charged with two counts of capital murder in 2020 for a murder-for-hire slaying, should have had two deputies with him at all times, the sheriff said. That includes during transportation to the courthouse, which was three minutes away.
Officer White’s patrol car, which was used to transport Mr. White, was seen at a local shopping mall at around 11 a.m. on Friday though it was unclear who spotted the vehicle and specifically where.
At 3:30 p.m., the booking officer on duty reported that he had been unable to reach Officer White. All calls were going to her voice mail. Around this time, officials confirmed that Mr. White, who had tried to escape before, was not at the jail, Sheriff Singleton said.
The authorities said it was not clear whether Officer White had helped Mr. White escape or whether she had been kidnapped. Officials said the officer and inmate were not related but that they were investigating whether there was ever a relationship between them.
“Knowing the inmate, I think she’s in danger, whatever the circumstance,” Sheriff Singleton said. “He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose.”
Officer White, who had been an exemplary member of the department for 25 years, told the booking officer on Friday morning that she would take Mr. White to his appointment and then “seek medical assistance” for herself because she was feeling ill, Sheriff Singleton said.
But Officer White did not go to a medical appointment either, the department confirmed.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a “blue alert” on Friday night for the missing officer. “Casey White is believed to be a serious threat to the corrections officer and the public,” the alert said.
Sheriff Singleton said Officer White was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun before she disappeared, leading investigators to believe that Mr. White was now armed.
The sheriff described Mr. White as “extremely dangerous” and urged residents to call 911 if they spotted him.
“Right now, our hope and prayer is we get him before somebody gets hurt,” the sheriff said.