A female prison officer is missing with a murder suspect after escorting him to court in Alabama.
Vicky White, 56 - who retired hours earlier - collected Casey Cole White, no relation, from a US detention centre.
The assistant director of corrections said she was taking 38-year-old Casey to a non-existent mental health evaluation.
The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Saturday the inmate also vanished at 9.41am on Friday.
Sheriff Rick Singleton confirmed the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, FBI, and US Marshals are assisting in the investigation.
Vicky, who has worked with the department for 16 years, left in a vehicle later discovered parked at a nearby shopping centre.
Casey was being held on capital murder charges over the brutal October 2015 stabbing of Connie Ridgeway, 58, at her home in Rogersville, Alabama.
He confessed to the slaying in 2020 while in state prison for other crimes, WHNT-TV reported.
At a news conference, Mr Singleton said Vicky, armed with a 9mm handgun, left the detention centre heading to the courthouse for what she said was a mental health evaluation for Casey.
She was alone with him, which the sheriff stressed was in direct violation of regulations.
“Our policy is for any inmate with those kinds of charges to have two sworn deputies escort them. And that did not happen,” Mr Singleton said.
He added there was no mental health appointment for the prisoner scheduled at the court.
Vicky also told co-workers she had a doctor’s appointment, which was confirmed but she never showed.
Officials said no one realised the two were missing until deputies tried to contact Vicky but her phone repeatedly went to voicemail.
Mr Singleton said his department was “aggressively investigating” the incident and would be looking into previous interaction between the two to “see if something else was going on”.
He remarked on his “shock” that it was obviously a possibility that the corrections officer helped Casey escape.
Mr Singleton told news outlets that Vicky had submitted retirement papers the day before she went missing.
Regardless of her involvement, the sheriff acknowledged she could very well be in danger.