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Tenn. man pleads guilty in courthouse shooting, guard's death

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KINGSTON, Tennessee (AP) -- A prisoner escaped Tuesday after his wife opened fire and killed a correctional officer escorting him outside a county courthouse, authorities said.

An extensive search was under way for the pair, identified as George and Jennifer Hyatte, and authorities were trying to determine if a second man, who may be an accomplice, was with them, Sheriff David Haggard said.

The officer, Wayne Morgan, was airlifted to University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, but hospital spokeswoman Lisa McNeal said later that he had died.

The incident began Tuesday morning after the inmate was sent to the Roane County Courthouse from Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex, where he is serving 35 years for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, Sluss said.

''His wife, Jennifer Hyatte, was at the Roane County Courthouse. She had a shotgun and pulled the shotgun on three transportation officers from the prison,'' Department of Correction spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said from her office in Nashville.

She did not know why George Hyatte, who was about two years into his prison term, had been brought to the courthouse.

The shooting happened about 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) as Hyatte, 34, and other prisoners were being loaded into a vehicle. Hyatte was handcuffed and shackled at the feet, authorities said.

Helicopters were circling over the town of about 6,000 people, which county Emergency Management Agency spokesman Scott Stout called ''small town USA.'' Schools were locked down and roads around the courthouse were closed.

''It's a full-blown investigation and a full-blown search,'' Stout said.

Authorities were searching for a gold Chevrolet Venture van the two are believed to be using, Sluss said. The pair initially used a dark blue Ford Explorer to get away from the courthouse but it was found abandoned a short time later, she said.

CO Killed By Inmates Wife
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Re: Correction Officer killed at Tenn courthouse

Prison love affair has inmate, wife on run after guard killed

USA Today - 18 minutes ago
KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) - Prison nurse Jennifer Forsythe got fired last year for sneaking food to an inmate. A few months later, she got permission from the warden to marry that inmate, George Hyatte, a man with a long and violent criminal record.
Fugitive couple appears in court for Tenn. guard shooting

Fugitive couple appears in court for Tenn. guard shooting
Associated Press Writer

KINGSTON, Tenn.- A prison guard testified Friday that he emptied his revolver and then grabbed his dying partner's gun to try to stop a "Bonnie and Clyde"-style escape by an inmate and his wife. The judge then ordered the couple's case to go forward.

At the brief preliminary hearing, Judge Dennis Humphrey sent charges of first-degree murder against Jennifer and George Hyatte to the grand jury. The hearing was in the Roane County Courthouse, where the shootout happened Aug. 9.

Jennifer Hyatte, 31, is accused of killing corrections officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56, as he and his partner, Larry Harris, were walking inmate George Hyatte to a prison van. George Hyatt had been at the courthouse for a plea hearing.

Authorities say George Hyatte yelled "Shoot him!" and his wife, Jennifer Hyatte, opened fire. Morgan, who was not wearing body armor, was shot at least once.

Harris, the only witness at the hearing, testified that he fired his own gun six times and then took the revolver from Morgan's holster to fire five more times.

One of the bullets struck Jennifer Hyatte in the leg, but the couple were able to escape in an SUV and became the subject of a nationwide search.

Humphrey refused to set bond for Jennifer Hyatte, saying prosecutors were likely to seek the death penalty and she was a flight risk. George Hyatte isn't eligible for bond because he is serving a prison sentence.

"Our condolences to the Morgan family," Humphrey said. "He will always be missed. I'm sorry for your loss and our loss."

Jennifer Hyatte, a former prison nurse who was fired for having a relationship with Hyatte, had no criminal record. They married in May.

The pair was caught 36 hours later in a motel in Columbus, Ohio. Authorities were tipped off by a cab driver who gave the Hyattes a ride from a Cincinnati suburb in Kentucky.

The Hyattes surrendered without incident, and the driver, Mike Wagers, received a $10,000 reward.

After the arrest, authorities discovered Jennifer Hyatte kept a 34-page diary about the crime. She titled it "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," referring to the Depression-era bank robbing lovers, and wrote that Hyatte is the love of her life.

After the hearing, both Hyattes were expected to be returned to separate prisons in Nashville.

Jennifer Hyatte's ex-husband, Eli Gourdin of Smithfield, Utah, is seeking permanent custody of their three children.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Re: Correctional Officer Killed at Courthouse

Tenn. man pleads guilty in courthouse shooting, guard's death

By Duncan Mansfield
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A career criminal whose bold escape with his gun-toting wife from an east Tennessee courthouse left one guard dead and another wounded entered a surprise guilty plea Monday and was sentenced to life without parole.
A shackled George Hyatte, 37, had nothing to add as he entered his plea in that same courthouse in Kingston, about 40 miles west of Knoxville, one month before he was to stand trial in the case and face a death penalty if convicted.
He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2005 fatal shooting of guard Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56; attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of guard Larry "Porky" Harris; and felony escape. In a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to be incarcerated for the rest of his life.
His wife, Jennifer Hyatte, a former prison nurse who met and married Hyatte behind bars, received the same sentence after pleading guilty to similar charges in 2007.
Jennifer Hyatte actually fired the fatal shots as George Hyatte commanded, "Shoot him!" during a carefully orchestrated break for freedom as the guards led George Hyatte to a van for a return trip to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary after a hearing at the Roane County Courthouse.
At the time, Hyatte was serving a 41-year sentence for a variety of violent crimes.
The pair were on the loose for 36 hours before being caught in a motel in Columbus, Ohio. It was their only time together. Jennifer Hyatte chronicled the misadventure in a 34-page diary titled, "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," alluding to the Depression-era bank-robbing lovers.
District Attorney Russell Johnson told The Associated Press the plea deal was offered late last week.
Both sides said they wanted to avoid a trial because Hyatte would likely get the death penalty _ the worst possible outcome for the defense, but a victory burdened with years of appeals for the prosecution.
"The way we looked at it, (the plea deal) was a guaranteed result," Johnson said. "He will spend the rest of his life in prison, which is what we were hoping for."
Morgan's family quickly accepted. "We can get on with the rest of our lives and get some closure," the victim's son, Dennis Morgan, told The Knoxville News Sentinel.
Johnson said prosecutors weren't going to accept anything less than what Jennifer Hyatte received.
Defense attorney James Simmons told The AP, "It is a tragic case that had a tragic ending for everybody. Nobody wins these cases. George will be in prison for the rest of his life."
And he will likely never be with Jennifer Hyatte.
"No," his attorney said, "they will never see each other again."
A trial date has yet to be set for a third defendant, former prison guard Randall Ridenour, who is charged with letting George Hyatte use his cell phone to call Jennifer Hyatte before the escape. Ridenour has pleaded not guilty.

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