EVANSVILLE, Ind. - The local man who helped escaped Alabama inmate Casey White and former corrections officer Vicky White rent an Evansville motel room is a homeless convicted sex offender who says he didn't know the couple.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said Monday his investigators identified Shawn Eugene Gardner, 51, from the register at Motel 41 on U.S. 41. Gardner had to show a driver's license to rent the room, which Wedding said he did in exchange for $100 cash from the fugitives.
The sheriff's office did not arrest Gardner, Wedding said, because his actions didn't constitute a crime.
Gardner refused to speak to the Courier & Press about his interaction with the Whites in Evansville. He relayed that message from the Vanderburgh County jail, where he is being held in lieu of a $500 bond on unrelated charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of a syringe and being an habitual offender.
More: Evansville local likely helped Casey and Vicky White get Motel 41 room, sheriff says
"His response: 'Absolutely not speaking,'" Wedding said, including an obscenity he said Gardner used to punctuate the point.
Gardner pleaded guilty to attempted rape of an 80-year-old Evansville woman in 2003. The Courier & Press reported his arrest on Oct. 30, 2002, stating he was suspected of raping the woman in her home, stealing jewelry and coins and threatening to kill her and himself. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with credit for 150 days served, according to court records.
The National Sex Offender Public Website identifies Gardner as homeless.
How did Shawn Eugene Gardner meet Casey White and Vicky White?
Wedding said the Whites, who were the subject of a nationwide manhunt, met Gardner as he was leaving a motel on Fares Avenue on May 3. Gardner told investigators he didn't recognize the fugitive couple, the sheriff said.
Casey White and Vicky White were captured in Evansville on May 9. They had disappeared from the Lauderdale County jail in Alabama, triggering an 11-day, multistate manhunt. Casey is a convicted felon serving time for attempted murder and kidnapping. Vicky White was the corrections officer who reportedly helped him escape. She died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound following the chase.
The fugitives needed Gardner's help to rent Room 150 at Motel 41, Wedding said. Being an escaped convict on the run, Casey White didn't have an ID. Vicky White's name and photo was being published all over the nation.
Paul Shah, manager of the budget motel on U.S. 41, insisted last week that the Whites had been visiting a local resident who was staying there.
"(The Whites) were not officially registered guests here," Shah said. "Somebody else checked in and they were visiting those people."
Shah would not identify the renter, adding that the room was still occupied and is "still under that person's name."
But Wedding said Gardner told a sheriff's detective he never entered Room 150.
After the sheriff's office identified Gardner from the Motel 41 register, investigators tracked him down with help from the Evansville Police Department.
EPD spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Gray said a sheriff's detective asked police to be on the lookout for Gardner. An EPD officer spotted him and notified the detective.
It wasn't that hard to find Gardner even though he is homeless, Gray said.
"We get that quite often. You know, the officers on the street, they get to know a lot of the homeless people out there, and they know where they stay and know them by sight," she said.
"So it's just a matter of, 'Yeah, I recognize him. I know he hangs out at this area, so I'll be on the lookout for him.' They just got lucky enough to find him."
Thomas B. Langhorne can be reached by email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Man who helped Casey White, Vicky White rent Motel 41 room arrested