In all my years living in the US state of Alabama, I never visited Florence, a small city about 116 miles northwest of Birmingham. But I got to know quite a bit about it through a former student who was a reporter/columnist at the Florence Times Daily. So, when news broke that an official at a prison there had fled with a murder suspect, I had reason beyond the oddity to be riveted.
It is a most bizarre case of forbidden love, so bizarre that any comparison with Romeo and Juliet would be strained. The ending though was partially the same. We all crave to love and to be loved. Yet, this case raises the question anew: Is love a terrible thing? To many, this question itself is socially blasphemy. Just read on anyway.
The anomaly in this love tragedy isn’t just that a jail supervisor ran away with an inmate. It is also that the two are diametrically opposite in character and life story. The only thing they have in common is their last names, but that’s just a coincidence.
The inmate, Casey White, is a towering 38-year-old man with a long history of violence and criminality. At 6-foot 9-inches tall and weighing more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms), Casey is an imposing fellow. He is serving a 75-year sentence in state prison for a series of crimes and is currently facing another trial for a murder that occurred in 2015. Even while in prison, he told officers that he would kill his ex-girlfriend if he ever got out.
This is all in sharp contrast with everything about Vicky White. She is a mere 5-foot 5-inches tall, 56 years old, and the assistant director of corrections (America’s euphemism for prisons). She was much respected in the law-enforcement establishment, where she worked for 17 years.
“All of her co-workers, all the employees in the sheriff’s office, the judges, all have the most utmost respect for her,” County Sheriff Rick Singleton told the press. “Obviously there was a side to Vicky White that we weren’t aware of.”
Yes, that was the Vicki White that got smitten by love. Before then, the widow, who had no children, lived a quiet life close to her mother. On return from work, she would routinely stop by the mum’s house to get some food. And thereafter she would take her dog for a walk, the mum told the press.
Unbeknown to anyone, Vicki was falling in love with a man whose history of violence she knew too well, a man who is young enough to be her son. Well, actually in hindsight, some prison staff told investigators, they overlooked some red flags. For one thing, Casey was getting more generous servings of meals at the behavior of a prison supervisor. And he and Vicki talked considerably over the phone.
They had known each other for about two years, dating back to early 2020. That was the first time Casey briefly spent time in the county jail before being returned to state prison. Apparently, that’s when he began to sow the seeds of seduction that materialized when he was returned to the county jail.
Seth Ferranti, who served a prison term before becoming an author and filmmaker, offered the press some conjecture on how it all happened. “The long play – that’s how cons do it,” he said. “He must have put a crazy seduction game down.”
It worked. Even as Vicki seemed unassailably devoted to her job, she was making plans for the daring escape. She incrementally withdrew $90,000 in cash from various bank accounts. She sold her house de ella at far below market price and she set her retirement day on the very day she planned to abscond with an obviously dangerous man.
That day she capitalized on her authority and reputation to pull off the escape without suspicion. She told the staff that she was taking Casey for a mental health examination. The rule requires that two prison guards accompany an inmate for such an appointment. Yet Vicki’s stated mission from her raised no eyebrows.
It was hours later before it became known that the inmate had no such appointment. A manhunt soon determined that he and Vicki abandoned the prison vehicle at a shopping center, where she had apparently left her newly purchased car from her. It took 11 days before the US Marshalls eventually caught up with them hundreds of miles away in Evansville, Indiana.
By then, they were driving a pickup truck they apparently stole and it was stacked with arms and ammunition. They reportedly planned to engage the police in a shootout. But in the course of the chase, the Marshalls deftly pushed the escapees’ car into a ditch. Thus trapped, Casey surrendered.
“Help my wife, she just shot herself,” he asked the Marshalls. The wife he was referring to was Vicki. She died later in the hospital. When, how, where and if they got married remained to be determined. Meanwhile, Casey was being returned to the county jail he escaped from.
Now, do you still think it is socially blasphemous to make a case against love? Well, of course, you do. After all, it is a human essence, a major part of our complexity. We are at cloud nine when we have love and at the depth of despair when we lose it. It makes people profoundly give of themselves. And it makes people do insanely irrational things.
René Descartes, the 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher, is most reputed for the pithy declaration, “I think, therefore I am.”
That is his view of the essence of being human. There is a stronger case for replacing that with, I love therefore I am. Descartes did not have the benefit of witnessing the wonders of artificial intelligence and related engineering. Humanoids and androids are increasingly being engineered to have an uncanny capacity to act human. They certainly outdistance humans in the capacity to “reason” through complex problems. Still, they can never be human because they can’t love.
You could say that that’s why robots “think” more clearly and precisely. You could also say that they don’t know what they are missing. And they might say, thank goodness we don’t have to deal with that convoluted emotion.
Tina Turner made the ultimate case against love when she sang, “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” You might remember it from her 1980s hit song “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” It was her final adieu from her to her tumultuous and failed marriage from her to Ike Turner. Now, she must be glad to have a heart because she’s been romantically bonded to her second husband for about 35 years, though they only formalized the marriage nine years ago.
The 19th-century English poet Lord Tennyson made the ultimate case for love when he wrote: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But then he never heard Vicki White’s story.
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