Alabama inmate Casey Cole White, who received national attention and more criminal exposure after a guard who helped him escape from jail took her own life, has pleaded guilty to escape in the first degree.
White agreed to the plea in exchange for dropping a felony murder charge in the death of the jailer, Vicky White. A judge scheduled him to be sentenced on June 8. He faces life in prison.
“Things happened really fast today unexpectedly,” said his attorney Robert Tuten, outside court. “Because this is still a pending matter, we’re unable to say anything else about the details of that right now.”
At the time of his attempted escape, White already had been facing capital murder charges over the 2015 stabbing death of Connie Jane Ridgeway. Lauderdale County authorities reportedly asserted that White confessed to that crime in 2020.
Last year, White had a court appearance in that case when he disappeared with Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Director of Corrections Vicky White, who had been transporting the suspect. They are not related.
Authorities said the suspect and his guard had a “special relationship.”
As the pair went into the wind, Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton remarked of the deputy during an April 19 press conference: “Knowing the inmate, I think she’s in danger whatever the circumstances. He was in jail for capital murder, and he had nothing to lose.”
Ultimately, Deputy White was in danger, but authorities say the inmate’s culpability over her death was indirect.
In May, authorities closed in on the pair near Evansville, Indiana. Vicky White then killed herself with a “gunshot to the head,” according to the indictment. With her death, Casey White racked up another felony murder charge, which holds a defendant criminally liable for any death that results from the commission of a violent felony. Prosecutors said that Casey White’s felony of escape in the first degree directly resulted in the guard’s death.
His capital murder trial over Ridgeway’s death was expected to unfold on June 12, 2023. Prosecutors indicated that they would not seek the death penalty on that count.
Authorities said they were blindsided by the deputy’s apparent role in the inmate’s escape. Vicky White had been an employee with the sheriff’s office for some 25 years, according to Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton. The sheriff said that Vicky White had told her subordinates that she was taking Casey White for a mental health evaluation, dropping the inmate off and then seeking medical attention because she felt ill.
Calling traveling alone with inmates a “strict violation” of policy, Singleton suggested nobody questioned it because of Deputy White’s seniority. The sheriff disclosed later this year that the inmate and the deputy spoke with each other 949 times between August 2021 and late February 2022 while Casey White was incarcerated at the William Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County.
Casey White and Vicky White also “had some phone sex,” the sheriff disclosed in September.
Colin Kalmbacher and Adam Klasfeld contributed to this report.
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