A national manhunt for a corrections officer and the Alabama inmate she helped to escape last month ended Monday after a police pursuit resulted in a crash in Indiana, the authorities said. The inmate surrendered, and the officer fatally shot herself, they said.
The former officer, Vicky White, had been on the run with the inmate, Casey White, whom she was not related to, since April 29, when they left the Lauderdale County Jail in Florence, Ala., for a courthouse appointment that was later revealed to be a fabrication.
The crash occurred in Evansville, Ind., more than 200 miles north of the jail from which Mr. White, a murder suspect, had escaped, after the authorities there heard that the Whites were in a vehicle near the sheriff’s office and began pursuing it.
A U.S. marshals vehicle collided with the vehicle the Whites were in, causing it to roll over and crash during the pursuit, said Marty Keely, the U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Alabama. With the vehicle wrecked, Mr. White surrendered to the authorities, Sheriff Rick Singleton of Lauderdale County said at a news conference on Monday.
Ms. White shot herself and was taken to a hospital in “very serious” condition, Sheriff Dave Wedding of Vanderburgh County, Ind., said at a news conference on Monday. She died there on Monday night, Sheriff Singleton said by phone.
Sheriff Singleton said he was feeling “pretty down” after learning that Ms. White, who was a widow and had no children, had died.
“The whole sheriff’s office is like family,” he said. “When you have a family member that makes a bad choice, you know, you don’t like them but you still love them. She was family to us. And so yeah, it hurts.”
Sheriff Singleton added that he now believed the Whites had been in a “romantic relationship,” and that Ms. White was “just as concerned about coming back and facing her family and her co-workers as she was the charges.”
It is unclear who was driving the vehicle that the Whites were traveling in.
Sheriff Singleton said Mr. White was driving the vehicle; Sheriff Wedding, however, said Ms. White had been driving a Cadillac.
“We got a dangerous man off the street today,” Sheriff Singleton said of Mr. White at the news conference. “He is never going to see the light of day again.”
Mr. White and Ms. White had last been seen on April 29 in Rogersville, Ala., about 24 miles east of Florence, Mr. Keely said.
They were in what was described as a gold- or copper-colored 2007 Ford S.U.V. with Alabama plates, a vehicle the authorities said the pair abandoned along a rural road in Williamson County, Tenn., the same day they escaped.
The Ford was found on Friday, abandoned with paint buckets inside, Sheriff Singleton said. The pair had “probably tried to disguise it,” he added, “but they didn’t do a very good job of it.” Ms. White’s patrol vehicle had been left at Florence Square Shopping Center, where the pair had switched vehicles, Sheriff Singleton said.
Ms. White disappeared with Mr. White on the morning of April 29, after she left the jail under the pretext of escorting him to the county courthouse a few blocks away for a mental health evaluation. She told a booking officer at the jail that, after dropping off Mr. White, she intended to “seek medical assistance” for herself.
That did not happen, Sheriff Singleton said at a news conference on May 1. The premise for leaving the jail was “all bogus,” he said.
The disappearance was not noticed until about six hours after the officer and the inmate had left, according to the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office.
Ms. White stayed at a Quality Inn in Florence, Ala., on the two nights leading up to her disappearance, according to video footage the sheriff’s office released on Saturday.
“We don’t know exactly why she stayed out there,” Sheriff Singleton said, adding, “Maybe she didn’t want to face her family that morning, knowing what she was seeking to do.”
Sheriff Singleton said the authorities knew “for sure” that Ms. White had helped Mr. White flee the jail, though he initially said she might have been coerced or threatened into doing so. As the jail’s assistant director of corrections, its second highest-ranking officer, she was responsible for handling transportation for inmate appearances in court.
An arrest warrant was issued for her on a charge of permitting or facilitating an escape. A week later, charges of forgery and identity theft were added stemming from the use of an alias to purchase the Ford S.U.V., the Sheriff’s Office said.
Mr. White, 38, was charged in 2020 with two counts of murder in the fatal stabbing of a woman in 2015, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which described him as approximately 6-foot-9 and weighing about 330 pounds. Mr. White had already been serving a 75-year sentence for previous convictions, including two carjackings and multiple shootings. He was awaiting trial in the 2015 murder.
A lawyer for Mr. White declined to comment.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that investigators had determined, through interviews with inmates, that Ms. White and Mr. White were in a “special relationship.” Sheriff Singleton said in a news conference, “It’s obviously a jailhouse romance or something.”
He told NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday that Ms. White and Mr. White had been in a relationship for at least two years, and that the two had been in contact by phone when Mr. White was an inmate at a state prison in Donaldson, Ala.
“He was here in 2020 for an arraignment, a preliminary hearing,” Sheriff Singleton said. “When he finished that, he went back to state prison.”
The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday that Ms. White was “no longer employed” by the office.
She had recently decided to retire, and the escape occurred on her last day of work. Sheriff Singleton said that it was unusual for someone her age, 56, to retire four years before her retirement benefits would become available.
Her mother, Pat Davis, said in an interview with WAAY-TV that Ms. White never spoke of retirement, though she’d recently sold her house and moved in with Ms. Davis.
“Nobody saw this coming,” Sheriff Singleton said, emphasizing Ms. White’s reputation as a respected colleague and a four-time recipient of the jail’s employee of the year honor.
At the time of the disappearance, Ms. White was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun. The U.S. Marshals Service warned that she and Mr. White might have been armed with a shotgun and an AR-15-style rifle.
On Wednesday, the Marshals Service said in a statement that Mr. White had threatened a former girlfriend and her sister, warning that he would kill them if he ever got out of prison.
Sheriff Singleton said after the capture on Monday that Mr. White would be “handcuffed and shackled” in his cell. “He’s not getting out of this jail again,” Sheriff Singleton said. “I assure you that.”
Johnny Diaz and Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.