Jailbreak drama ends with inmate arrest, death of prison guard

Remote video URL

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A bizarre drama that riveted America ended in tragedy on Monday (May 10) as a female prison guard arrested with a fugitive ex-con she allegedly helped to escape died after shooting herself as police moved in to nab them in the climax of a 10-day manhunt.

Vicky White and Casey White, who are not related, were arrested in Evansville, Indiana after crashing their car into a ditch as police acting on a tip were in hot pursuit, officials said.

Vicky White, 56 and described as romantically linked with the fugitive prisoner, shot herself, said Vanderburgh County sheriff Dave Wedding. The county coroner’s office later confirmed her death.

Casey White, 38, sustained minor injuries in the arrest.

“We got a dangerous man off the street today. He is never going to see the light of day again,” said Rick Singleton, the sheriff of Lauderdale County in Alabama, home to the scene of the original jailbreak.

A US marshals vehicle collided with the vehicle the Whites were in, causing it to roll over and crash during the pursuit, said Marty Keely, US marshal for the Northern District of Alabama. With the vehicle wrecked, Casey White surrendered to authorities, Sheriff Singleton said.

Vicky White, an Alabama prison guard with a spotless record, is suspected of helping long-time criminal Casey White of escaping custody on April 29, her last day of work before retirement.

“We got a dangerous man off the street today,” Singleton said of Casey White at the news conference. “He is never going to see the light of day again.”

The prisoner has had numerous run-ins with the law, and has been sentenced to 75 years imprisonment for kidnapping, burglary and attempted murder, among other crimes.

No shots were fired by law enforcement officers, and no police or bystanders were hurt.

The arrest was made thanks to a tip after the couple were spotted at a hotel, Singleton said.

“It ended the way we knew it would.” Chris Swecker, a former FBI assistant director, told CNN this was a case of someone “looking for love in the wrong places”.

“You have this guard falling in love with a prisoner who probably groomed her over a period of time,” said Swecker, “to collude with her on this escape”.

Investigators also learnt that Vicky White, 56, had sold her home in the weeks before the escape, and had withdrawn about US$90,000 (S$125,000) in cash from several banks in the area, Singleton said last week.

The case captivated America, triggering media coverage of every twist in the manhunt.

Singleton said last week that Vicky White had used an alias to purchase a sport utility vehicle used as the getaway car, and was likely to try to do that again.

The US Marshals Service, a federal agency specialised in fugitive manhunts, also said in a report on Friday that Vicky White might have darkened her hair.

The agency released composite images of what she would look like, as well as photos of Casey White's tattoos - including one associated with a white supremacist prison gang.

Their report also noted the couple's stark difference in size, with Casey White standing a full foot (0.3 metres) taller.

On her last day at work, Vicky White fabricated a court-ordered psychological evaluation for Casey White.

She said she needed to drive him to the appointment. But the two never returned, and authorities realized they had disappeared that afternoon.“Nobody saw this coming,” Singleton said, emphasising Vicky White’s reputation as a respected colleague and a four-time recipient of the jail’s employee of the year honour.

Remote video URL

Vicky White’s mother Pat Davis said she was in disbelief over that escape.

“I thought at first it was a mistake,” she told a local TV channel. “She’s never done anything, I bet she’s never even had a speeding ticket.”

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told CNN a jailbreak like this in our times is a tough mission.

“It’s getting harder very year to pull these things off successfully, with the ubiquitous nature of video surveillance, and the ability of the media and quite frankly social media to get that sort of intelligence out to the public in a realtime manner,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Marshals Service said in a statement that Casey White had threatened a former girlfriend and her sister, warning that he would kill them if he ever got out of prison.

The Marshals Service and Alabama authorities have been in touch with the sisters “to advise them of the threats and the escape,” and have taken steps to protect them, the statement said.

Singleton said after the capture that Casey White would be “handcuffed and shackled” in his cell. “He’s not getting out of this jail again,” Singleton said. “I assure you that.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.