A sheriff’s office in Alabama issued an alert Friday night after an inmate and the assistant director of corrections went missing earlier in the day. Authorities said the inmate, who was being held on capital murder charges, should be considered “armed and extremely dangerous.” 

Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton told reporters Friday night that Vicki White, a 25-year veteran at the department, left the local detention center with Casey Cole White at 9:41 a.m. He said she told other officials she was going to drop him off at the courthouse for a mental health evaluation and then was going to seek medical attention because she wasn’t feeling well. Despite having the same last name, the two are not related. 

Shortly after 11 a.m., someone found her patrol vehicle in a parking lot of a shopping center. At 3:30 p.m., officials became aware that no one had been able to contact her, and that the inmate had not been returned to custody. 

Singleton said that after speaking to the court, officials confirmed that there had not been any scheduled mental health evaluation. He also said that her decision to take the inmate to the courthouse alone was “a strict violation of policy,” as someone charged with that severe of a crime should have been accompanied by two deputies. Because Vicki was in charge of courthouse transportation, he said, it’s likely that none of her subordinates felt comfortable challenging her on the policy breach. 

“She’s been an employee for 25 years, and I can tell you that every employee in this office is shocked that she’s missing and that this has happened,” Singleton said. “We’re just in disbelief, she’s been an exemplary employee.”

Though the circumstances may appear suspicious, Singleton said he would want conclusive proof before accusing Vicki White of any wrongdoing. He said White had been voted employee of the year multiple times, and was well-liked and respected. He also said she was eligible for retirement, and had discussed leaving the department for months. 

“Obviously, you know, we’re looking at all angles,” he said. “Did she assist him in escaping? That’s obviously a possibility. So we’re looking into that as one angle of the investigation. Was she kidnapped en route to the courthouse? You know, taken against her will? That’s obviously another angle we’re looking at.” 

Singleton said Vicki was armed with a 9mm gun before she disappeared, leading investigators to assume that Casey is now armed. He described Casey as “extremely dangerous,” and urged residents not to approach him and call 911 instead. 

“Right now our hope and prayer is we get him before somebody gets hurt,” he said.  

 When asked if he believed Vicki was in danger, Singleton said, “I think she’s in danger, whatever the circumstances.”

“He was in jail for capital murder, and, you know, he has nothing to lose,” he added.