When Toby Dorr saw the news that prison guard Vicky White’s time on the lam with her convict lover, Casey White, had ended with his capture and her suicide she cried for three days straight.
It might seem an extreme reaction for a woman who never met Vicky, 56, but for Dorr the feelings were overwhelming. She was ‘devastated.’
She says, ‘Vicky couldn’t see through the darkness and decided to take her own life which was just heartbreaking…because that could have been me.’
For Dorr, 64, this isn’t a fanciful connection or idle turn of phrase. Because sixteen years ago it was her.
In 2006 Dorr – then known as Toby Young – sparked a nationwide manhunt when the trusted volunteer who ran a dog training and adoption program at Lansing Correctional Facility, Kansas, smuggled convicted murderer John Manard, then 27, out of prison in a dog crate and went on the run.
Now, in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Dorr has shared her story and offered a unique insight into what drives a woman like her – a woman in so very many ways like Vicky – to do the unthinkable and ‘blow up’ her life.
While Dorr and Manard were living what she called their ‘honeymoon life’ the rest of the country was looking for them. The Associated Press came to do an article about Lansing’s ‘Dog Lady,’ Dorr. She was pictured walking a dog with Manard. It was less than two weeks before his escape and the plan was already set. Dorr’s heart was ‘beating out of her chest’
Sixteen years ago Toby Dorr was a trusted volunteer who ran a dog training and adoption program at Lansing Correctional Facility, Kansas. She smuggled her convict lover out of prison in a dog crate and went on the run
Toby Dorr, 64, (left) went on the run with her convict lover John Manard, then 27, in 2006, sparking a nationwide manhunt. He was 21 years her junior
Speaking with DailyMail.com, Dorr says the similarities between her and Vicky White’s (pictured) stories are ‘stunning.’ ‘John Manard, who I helped escape, was 21 years younger than me. Casey White was 22 years younger than Vicky,’ Dorr said
The similarities between Dorr and Vicky’s stories are, as she puts it, ‘stunning.’
She explained ‘John Manard, who I helped escape, was 21 years younger than me. Casey White was 22 years younger than Vicky.
‘Vicky had been this upstanding citizen her whole life. She lived an exemplary life and won employee of the year [several] years in a row and was slated to get it again this year. The whole community depended on her and no one ever suspected anything which is why the whole escape worked.
‘It was the same with mine. I had been an upstanding citizen and I had free rein to go into the prison and go anywhere I wanted.
Dorr’s inspirational memoir, ‘Living With Conviction’ is out next month and she has written a series of workbooks, ‘Unleashed’ designed to help women gain agency within their own lives
‘Their first vehicle was found in Tennessee which is where we were caught. They were gone for 11 days; we were gone for 12 days.
‘We were caught in a high-speed car chase. It was terrifying…a hundred miles an hour and it lasted for probably 10 minutes which seemed like an eternity.
‘They were caught in a car chase too. Their car crashed into a ditch and rolled over. Our truck crashed into a tree.’
According to Dorr she was looking forward to reaching out to Vicky in what she saw as the inevitable aftermath of the escape.
She said, ‘I thought I could help her work through this, be a friend to her and an asset.’
To many, Vicky’s solid life and her work as a trusted corrections officer is impossible to reconcile with her actions on Friday April 29, when she walked her lover out of jail under the auspices of taking him to a mental health check-up.
But to Dorr, Vicky’s life of service to others goes a long way to explaining what came next.
She says, ‘Vicky and I both lived such similar lives up to the escape. I can’t speak to how she felt but I can tell you how I felt and there’s just too many coincidences. I felt like I’d lived my whole life for everybody else.’
Dorr was the oldest of seven and helped raise her younger siblings. She married her high-school boyfriend, a firefighter Patrick Young, when she was 20 and they went on to have three children: two sons, Eric and Greg, and a daughter, Emily, who died just 18 hours and 31 minutes after birth.
Dorr was 24. According to her, her husband’s way of dealing with Emily’s death was to never talk about it. Looking back, Dorr sees that as the ‘end of her marriage’ though the union survived another two decades.
She says, ‘My whole life was what my husband needed from me and what my children needed from me.
‘I had a demanding job in corporate America, and I never spent any time on myself. I never gave myself an hour off and I think the world learned that they could depend on me to pick up all the pieces and do all the work and hold everything together.’
Dorr thinks the same was true of Vicky who, as well as being Assistant Director at Lauderdale County Jail, cared for her former husband whose drug addiction had ended their marriage and who suffered from Parkinson’s.
Dorr said, ‘She was everything to everyone around her and had no life other than what she had in serving people.’
For Dorr the net result was that she felt ‘invisible.’ She said, ‘I honestly believed that at the time of the escape it would be two weeks before anybody noticed I was gone.’
Dorr believes that Vicky too was living a life of quiet desperation – hungry to be ‘significant.’
For Dorr that need was heightened by a series of cataclysmic events. In 2001 she was earning a six-figure salary for Sprint when the company shut down the program she ran and ended her 14-year-career.
Vicky White was caught with her lover after 11 days on the run, while Dorr and Manard were caught within 12 days – both were in a high-speed car chase
Dorr said: ‘Casey and John wanted to get out of prison so I’m sure they had some insight, but really it was Vicky, and it was myself that worked out the details.’ Casey White is pictured arriving at a courthouse on May 10
Vicky and Casey were caught after leading US Marshals on a car chase that lasted ‘less than a few minutes’. They had been in Evansville, Indiana, since May 3
Vicky White, 56, shot herself at the end of the car chase with police. She was due to retire on the day she absconded with the suspected murderer
In March 2004 a lump on her neck turned out to be thyroid cancer which was successfully treated but the brush with her mortality highlighted how deeply unhappy she was.
Searching for purpose, she started the Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program in Lansing Correctional Facility not long after. The program saw prisoners train rescue dogs that would then be put up for adoption.
John Manard, a tall, red-haired young prisoner with ‘Hooligan’ tattooed across his navel volunteered to be one of her trainers.
Within a year, 700 dogs had been rehoused and the program was garnering local attention.
In a twist of fate Associated Press came to do an article about Lansing’s ‘Dog Lady,’ Dorr.
She was pictured walking a dog with Manard. It was less than two weeks before his escape and the plan was already set. Dorr’s heart was ‘beating out of her chest.’
I thought maybe that’s what I need. I just need to blow up my life.’
Dorr insisted that, for most of their relationship, she and Manard never ‘crossed the line’ but she can identify the exact moment it changed.
Her father had just been diagnosed with cancer. She recalled, ‘John was the only person who noticed I was upset. All he said to me was, ‘What’s going on with you today Toby you seem pretty upset?’ And somebody noticing that I had a need…was like pouring water on a dying plant. I can imagine Vicky being in that same situation.’
Vicky’s ex-husband, to whom she was close, died just four months before Casey’s escape.
After that, Dorr said, ‘Our relationship just took off like a rocket fire. There was no quenching it because for the first time in my life somebody noticed me and I was significant.’
The confines of prison only intensified her desire.
She said, ‘The relationship was cultivated in a very abnormal environment. I might be checking on a dog that has a wound and I’m parting the fur to look and John’s helping me move the fur so his hand touches mine and it’s like electricity. But that’s the best day we had.
‘Vicky could go to Casey’s cell because she was an officer, but she couldn’t do it too much because she would be noticed.’
According to Dorr it was Manard who first mentioned escape. She said, ‘John just said to me one day, ”If I wasn’t in prison would you be with me?” and I thought, you know, I might.
‘I thought it was a casual question, but to him it was like, ”Okay. Now I gotta get out.”
‘He came to me one day and said, ”If I got out would you run away with me?” And I thought about it, and I thought, you know, maybe I could. Maybe that’s what I need. I just need to blow up my life.’
Today, Dorr said, ‘Obviously I look back and the woman I am today would never consider doing that, but the woman I was then, for her it made the most sense to save her life.’
She believes wholeheartedly that the same was true for Vicky, ‘She was desperate to be loved. She was desperate to be noticed. She was desperate to be significant.’
Dorr is sure that escaping with White seemed ‘logical’ to Vicky just as escaping with Manard seemed ‘logical’ to her.
She added, ‘Which just kind of indicates how broken [we both were].’
Vicky has been credited as the brains behind her and White’s doomed bid for freedom. Similarly, Dorr said she took the lead in planning. Dorr is pictured after she was captured and arrested for helping John Manard escape
Dorr cashed in her 401K for $42,000, bought a truck in a false name, booked a month in a remote cabin in Tennessee and smuggled Manard out in a dog crate that a prison guard helped load into her truck
Vicky has been credited as the brains behind her and White’s doomed bid for freedom. Similarly, Dorr said she took the lead in planning.
She said, ‘Casey and John wanted to get out of prison so I’m sure they had some insight, but really it was Vicky, and it was myself that worked out the details.’
For Dorr that meant cashing in her 401K for $42,000 in cash, buying a truck in a false name, booking a month in a remote cabin in Tennessee and smuggling Manard out in a dog crate that a prison guard helped load into her truck.
For Vicky that meant selling her house and withdrawing $92,000 cash, buying a truck under a false name and walking White out of jail on the pretense of taking him to a mental health check.
For both women being on the run meant the first opportunity to be fully intimate with their lifer lovers. Vicky visited an adult store and bought stockings in the days before she and White went on the run.
Dorr recalled, ‘We had escaped but it was our first date. There was a lot of love there and John did treat me well. He would do things like run a bubble bath and line the tub with candles. I brought my mandolin with me, and he would sing to me, he’s a good musician. We’d lie next to the fire and he’d serenade me.’
There were, Dorr said, ‘some really romantic moments that I had never had in my whole life.’
She hopes, and believes, Vicky experienced the same.
She said, ‘It just made me more confident that I’d done the right thing in helping him escape, that this really was my destiny. But it was not a natural life for those 12 days.
‘It was like a movie or something. It didn’t feel real.’
When she was in prison, Dorr said, Manard found ways to send her letters and artwork and songs he had written. One of the drawings has the names ‘Toby’ and ‘John’ written in roses and hearts
Manard wrote these songs and love letters to Dorr after he was sentenced to 20 years on top of the life-sentence he was already serving for his role in a fatal carjacking
And while she and Manard were living what she called their ‘honeymoon life’ the rest of the county was looking for them. At one point both were on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
But one clear, and uncomfortable, difference between Dorr and Vicky is that Dorr had children where Vicky had none. When Dorr left, her sons, Eric and Greg, were 21 and 25.
She used the fact that they were ‘adults’ to excuse her leaving, she said. She had wanted to leave her marriage many years sooner but stayed for their sake.
Now, she said, ‘They were out of the house, finding their own way, and their absence in the home just made me realize how little I had in common with my husband.’
If she felt she didn’t really know the man with the felony murder conviction by her side in the cabin, she felt she at least knew him better than the man sitting in a recliner in her own front room.
Ultimately both couples were tripped up by rookie mistakes and the desire to taste something approaching ‘normal’ life.
Dorr gave the real cabin address when buying a truck under a false name putting law enforcement in the vicinity. The pair were spotted outside a mall after going to the movies.
White was caught on surveillance camera at a car wash and quickly traced to the motel where law enforcement lay in wait.
When White was arrested, he claimed that he and Vicky didn’t have a plan of where they would go next. They had traveled less than 300 miles from their starting point in Alabama.
According to Dorr she and Manard had never thought too hard beyond the escape either.
Surprisingly she said, ‘I always thought I could go back home, get divorced, start a new life and deal with whatever I had to deal with.
‘I believed I was going to rebuild my life and that my sons would welcome me back.’
But things didn’t work out that way. After her arrest Dorr got her divorce – her husband signed the papers before her first court appearance. But she did not get a relationship with her sons.
Toby (pictured aged 4 far right with her mother, sister and brother) shared childhood photos with DailyMail.com She was the oldest of seven and helped raise her younger siblings
Dorr and her husband had three children: two sons, Eric and Greg, and a daughter, Emily, who died just 18 hours and 31 minutes after birth (pictured) Dorr sees that as the ‘end of her marriage’ though the union survived another two decades
She was sentenced to 27 months – a sentence that took in federal firearms charge because she and Manard had guns. To this day Dorr considers letting Manard take two guns – weapons gifted to her by her husband – her biggest mistake.
But, she said, prison was healing, ‘I found my freedom behind bars. It was the first time in my life that I had time to focus on myself – all these old, emotional wounds that I needed to heal. And figure out what I wanted to do and how to move forward.’
She was released on April 30, 2008, a day that she thought auspicious because it was her youngest son’s 24 birthday.
She said, ‘I thought it was an omen – you know, we’re going to fix this, it’s going to be okay.’
But Eric was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the very same day.
She said, ‘He died 17 days before his 25th birthday so for the whole next year he battled this cancer. I did go to see him. I told him I loved him, and he said, ”I know you do.” But we didn’t really get to fix our relationship.
‘He said, ”You know mom I’ve got to battle this cancer. I can’t be distracted. You’re just going to have to stay away till I get through this.” But he didn’t get through it.’
Tears well as Dorr recalls the last day she saw her son. She had to negotiate with her ex-husband to be allowed into the hospital room where he lay in a coma. He granted her 15 seconds.
She recalled, ‘I held his hand and I told him I loved him and that he had fought a good fight and it was okay to go and I left the room.
‘He died before I got to the elevator. I will always believe he was waiting for me to get there before the let go.’
As for her older son, Dorr said, ‘I always thought that time would heal, but it’s been a lot of time. We need to live our lives on his terms, and if his terms are that we don’t have a relationship, I accept that because I love him.’
Vicky and Casey White were found 219 miles away from the jail they left in Alabama on April 29. The manhunt spanned three states
Manard was sentenced to 20 years on top of the life-sentence he was already serving for his role in a fatal carjacking.
When she was in prison, Dorr said, Manard found ways to send her letters and artwork and songs he had written. He always seemed to have a way of knowing where she was.
But eventually, she realized that if she was going to make anything of her life she would have to let go.
Dorr has since remarried – she met her husband, Chris, after her release when both were working at an IT company. He has known about her crime from the start.
When, several years ago, a reporter reached out saying that Manard had asked for her telephone number it was her husband, Chris, who urged Dorr to get in touch.
She said, ‘He said, ‘You two have never had closure. You need to talk to each other and move on.’
According to Dorr her husband never viewed Manard, now in prison in Maine, as a ‘threat.’
Remarkably, in 2014 Dorr and Chris visited her ex-lover as a couple. It was the first time she has seen Manard since they were ‘ripped apart’ at the scene of their crash in Tennessee.
‘It was good to see him,’ she said, ‘And it was good to have him meet Chris and then to be able to give him a hug and say goodbye and walk away.’
Dorr does not regret what she did. She said, ‘Was it worth it? It was a huge price to pay but I love the woman I am today. I feel confident and I believe I can make a difference. And that is worth whatever price I had to pay’
To this day Dorr and Manard email as friends.
She said, ‘When I look back, I do see John and I as a love story. Someone told me once, true love would never ask someone to put their lives in danger, which is true.
‘But at the same time true love is just all consuming and crazy. True love would sacrifice their life for you. And I think both of those relate to John and I.’
So, does she feel she sacrificed her life for Manard?
Dorr said, ‘I feel that I sacrificed my life for myself. John was the catalyst. At the time I did sacrifice everything for John but what I really got out of it was a woman who’s strong and courageous and has a story to tell, and who chooses to share her story so that it can help other women realize they need to make changes in their life before they’re so desperate that helping someone escape from prison seems like the best idea they have.’
To Dorr, Vicky’s tragedy is not that she helped White escape, but that she never got the chance to face the music and find hope in a new life.
Dorr’s inspirational memoir, ‘Living With Conviction’ is out next month and she has written a series of workbooks, ‘Unleashed’ designed to help women gain agency within their own lives. She wishes she could have helped Vicky.
Because, for all the sadness and the loss to which her choices led, Dorr does not regret what she did.
She said, ‘Was it worth it? It was a huge price to pay but I love the woman I am today. I feel confident and I believe I can make a difference. And that is worth whatever price I had to pay.
‘I wouldn’t want to go back and be that broken, insignificant, invisible woman ever again.’
Timeline of Vicky White and Casey White’s escape
April 18: Jail guard Vicky White sells her Lexington, Alabama, home. Public records revealed she sold the property for $95,550, which was below market value. She started living with her mother after the sale.
April 28: Vicky submits retirement paperwork to officials at Lauderdale County Jail. According to Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton, she had been discussing her retirement for many months and ‘talked about going to the beach’.
Pre-prison break: In the week ahead of the escape (specific dates unknown) Vicky purchases men’s clothing at a Kohl’s store and visits a sex shop. It is unclear if she bought anything at the adult toy store.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly claims she also withdrew $90,000 in cash out of a series of bank accounts.
April 29 at 5.21am: Vicky checks out of a Quality Inn in Florence, Alabama.
8.47am: Transport Van 5 leaves the Lauderdale County jail with seven inmates escorted by two deputies
8.56am: Transport Van 2 leaves the jail with five inmates also escorted by two deputies
9.20am: Assistant Director Vicky White tells a deputy to prepare inmate Casey White for transport to courthouse. Deputy removes White from his cell, takes him to booking and handcuffs him and shackles his legs.
9.41am: Vicky leaves detention center with Casey and they head to the courthouse for a ‘mental health evaluation’. She tells the booking officer that she is the only deputy available who is firearm-certified and that she’s dropping him off to other deputies at the courthouse. Vicky says she’s then going to Med Plus for a personal appointment.
9.49am: Surveillance video shows Vicky’s police cruiser parked at the nearby Florence Square shopping center parking lot eight minutes after leaving the jail. ‘There was not enough time for them to even attempt to try to come to the courthouse,’ Sheriff Rick Singleton said.
11.34am: A Florence Police Department officer spots her cruiser.
3.30pm: Booking officer reports to administration that they’ve been trying to contact Vicky to check on her, and that her phone is going directly to voice mail. The officer also says that Casey was not returned to the detention center with other inmates.
Approximately 11pm: College Grove, Tennessee, resident Jackie Adams finds Vicky’s SUV – with tinted windows and no tags – abandoned by her home. She reports the vehicle to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, which has it towed.
May 1: US Marshals offer a $10,000 bounty – later increased to $25,000 – for Casey
May 3: US Marshals issue a warrant for Vicky, charging her with permitting or facilitating escape in the first degree in connection with capital murder
May 6: Tennessee cops discover the impounded SUV belonged to Vicky, spurring a force of US Marshals, Williamson County Sheriff’s Officers, and SWAT members to circle back to Adams’s property.
Drones and helicopters descended on Adams’s home – where they remained for hours and into the evening.
2.15pm: The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office tweets ‘there is NO sign the two are still in our area.’
May 7: Connolly reveals investigators’ theory that Vicky is rolling Casey, dressed as a woman, around in a wheelchair. Officials also suspect Vicky might be disguising herself as an elderly woman with a grey wig.
May 9: US Marshals search for the couple in Evansville, Indiana, after authorities locate a vehicle that had been reported stolen in the area of Tennessee where Vicky’s SUV was abandoned.
The couple is then caught after a brief car chase in Evansville. Casey White surrenders. Vicky White is taken to the hospital where she dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.