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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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Correction Officer killed at Tenn courthouse

Officer killed at Tennessee courthouse

Associated Press Writer

KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) -- An inmate serving a 35-year sentence on robbery and assault charges escaped Tuesday after his wife gunned down and killed a guard who was escorting the shackled prisoner outside a courthouse, authorities said.

The bloody escape set off an extensive search for George and Jennifer Hyatte. Helicopters circled over this eastern Tennessee town and schools - open for student registration - were locked down.

The Ford Explorer in which the couple fled the scene was later found abandoned with blood on the driver's side, and officers think the woman may have been wounded during the attack, Police Chief Jim Washam said. Authorities believed the pair later switched from the SUV to a van.

The escape occurred as corrections officers were loading Hyatte and other inmates into a prison van outside the courthouse Tuesday morning. A woman drove up in the Ford Explorer and fired several shots from a handgun, Washam said.


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"Mr. Hyatte hollered 'Shoot him!' She opened up fire on the officers, hitting one in the abdomen," Washam said.

Witness C. G. Gray said he and his wife were about 50 feet from the prisoners when they heard shots. He said corrections officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, who was not wearing a protective vest, never got his gun out of his holster.

Morgan died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, about 30 miles east, hospital spokeswoman Lisa McNeal said.

"The other officer did a get a shot off, apparently striking one of the individuals," Washam said.


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Officer killed at Tennessee courthouse

Hyatte, 34, was serving two consecutive 15-year sentences for robbery convictions and a five-year sentence on top of that for assault in a case out of Rhea County, state prison officials said. Several years ago he escaped from local authorities and was a fugitive for about a day after a holdup at a drive-in market.

Hyatte is two years into the 35-year sentence at Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex. He was at the courthouse to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors over an armed robbery charge, Washam said. Hyatte was handcuffed and shackled at the feet, witnesses said.

Authorities were trying to determine if an accomplice was involved, Sheriff David Haggard.

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Re: Correction Officer killed at Tenn courthouse

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A fugitive inmate and his wife, wanted in a brazen courthouse escape and fatal shooting in Tennessee, were captured Wednesday night at an Ohio motel after a tip from a cab driver who had dropped them off, authorities said.

George Hyatte and Jennifer Forsyth Hyatte were in a room at an America's Best Value Inn in Columbus and were arrested without a struggle, said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"We have found weapons," he said. "We don't know if it's the murder weapon, but we're processing those as we speak."

On Tuesday, authorities say Jennifer Hyatte, 31, ambushed two guards as they were leading her 34-year-old husband from a courthouse hearing in Kingston, Tenn., about 300 miles south of Columbus. Guard Wayne "Cotton" Morgan was fatally shot in the escape.

Jennifer Hyatte had some injuries, Gwyn said, but he declined to elaborate.

He said the couple would be brought back to Tennessee on warrants for first degree murder.

Authorities had already tracked the Hyattes to the Cincinnati area when they got a tip around 9 p.m. that the couple was at the Columbus motel. A cab driver who had apparently driven them to Columbus from Erlanger, Ky., just south of Cincinnati, called Erlanger police, U.S. Marshal John Schickel said.

He declined to give any additional information or identify the cab driver.

Phone call to room
After the tip, authorities surrounded the Columbus motel, said John Bolen, a supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service in Columbus.

Authorities called the motel room where the couple was staying, told them they were surrounded, and the couple came out of their room and surrendered around 10 p.m., Bolen said. They didn't say anything during the arrest, he said.

Jennifer Hyatte came out of the second-floor room with her hands up, said motel guest Robin Penn, who was watching from her first-floor window across the parking lot.

The woman was limping but followed officers' instructions to walk down the balcony to a stairwell and get on her knees, where she was handcuffed, Penn said. She said the man came out next, with his shirt pulled over his head. He walked backward toward the stairwell, then got on his knees and authorities handcuffed him, Penn said.

There were at least 25 officers on the motel balcony and in the parking lot, she said.

Hot on the trail
Earlier in the day, authorities had tracked down a van the couple was believed to have used, finding it outside a motel in Erlanger. The couple was gone, but authorities knew then that they were getting close.

Blood had been found in the motel room, and an employee at a nearby restaurant told federal agents she had given directions that day to a couple she later recognized as the fugitives.

Jennifer Hyatte had been a prison nurse when she met her future husband. She was fired last year for sneaking food to him but a few months later, she got permission from the warden to marry him.

George Hyatte had a long and violent criminal record. Before the escape Tuesday, he had been in court on a robbery charge.

It was at least the fifth time he had gotten way from law enforcement officials. The other escapes were from local authorities in east Tennessee in 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2002.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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