Alabama Manhunt Turns Up Sheriff’s Good Crisis Comms

Thom Weidlich 05.12.22


This Monday saw the end of an 11-day search for a murder suspect who escaped from an Alabama jail and the corrections officer who apparently helped him. The pair were caught in Indiana. One constant in the nail-biting episode was the tactful, unpretentious, straightforward communications of a county sheriff.

The murder suspect awaiting trial, Casey White, and the corrections officer, Vicky White, slipped out of the Lauderdale County Detention Center in Florence, Alabama, on Friday, April 29. The two Whites were not related and in fact are alleged to have had a romantic relationship. Vicky White was the jail’s assistant director of corrections.

Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton (pictured) gave many press conferences and interviews in a formal indoor setting, outside in front of the building and in the relaxed atmosphere of his office, sometimes in shirtsleeves and tie, sometimes in uniform. His office kept the public informed, releasing video and information on the pair.

Sheriff’s Focus

Much of the sheriff’s focus was on his colleague Vicky White.

In a press conference the day of the escape, he laid out the known facts and said his team was still trying to figure out what transpired. “I can tell you that every employee in this office is shocked that she’s missing and that this has happened,” he said. “We’re just sort of in disbelief.” It was possible that Vicky White was coerced, but also that she cooperated, he said. “I think she’s in danger whatever the circumstances.”

By May 2, he was announcing a warrant for her arrest. “We’re in hopes that we’ll get some much-needed breaks here in the next few hours, few days, that will help us locate them and get them back here to Lauderdale County and get Casey White, especially, behind bars. Casey White, as you’ve heard me say over and over, is an extremely dangerous person.”

On May 4, the sheriff announced that Vicky White was no longer employed by the county. In one of the story’s many twists, the 25-year veteran was scheduled to retire the day she disappeared, but she hadn’t completed her retirement papers. Daily pressers followed, including one on the Ford Edge SUV that the couple used being found in Tennessee.

Police Chase

They were apprehended May 9 in Evansville, Indiana, after crashing their vehicle during a police chase. Casey White was taken into custody but Vicky White, who had shot herself, was brought to the hospital and later died.

“This is the press conference we’ve been talking about all week that we wanted to call,” Sheriff Singleton said in announcing the capture. “This has ended a very long and stressful and challenging week and a half. It ended the way that we knew it would: They are in custody. What I’m very thankful for tonight is that no one was hurt. No citizens were hurt. No law enforcement officers were hurt as a result of this escape.”

He even thanked the journalists for their coverage that helped apprehend the pair.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter on crisis communications. Each week we highlight a crisis story in the news or a survey or study with an eye toward the type of best practices and strategies you can put to work each day. Click here to subscribe. 

Related:Dallas Police Provide Lesson in Crisis TransparencyLas Vegas Police Review Response to 2017 Mass Shooting