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Jennifer Forsyth HYATTE

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


The Kingston courthouse shooting
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Escape (shot dead a guard who was escorting her husband)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 9, 2005
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: February 11, 1974
Victim profile: Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56 (Correctional Officer)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on September 17, 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2
 
 
 
 
 
 

The 2005 Roane County Courthouse shooting, also referred to as the Kingston courthouse shooting, was the fatal shooting of a Tennessee Department of Correction transport officer, and wounding of another officer in Kingston, Tennessee, United States.

The incident took place on August 9, 2005 and the shooter was Jennifer Forsyth Hyatte (born 11 February 1974). Her husband, George Hyatte, pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in the courthouse right before she pulled out the gun and started shooting. Jennifer Hyatte currently is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

On March 9, 2009, George Hyatte pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2005 fatal shooting of Correctional Officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of Correctional Officer Larry "Porky" Harris and felony escape. He was sentenced to life in prison as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty.

The shooting

At approximately 10:00 a.m., during a court hearing, Tennessee Department of Correction transport officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan was fatally shot three times by Jennifer Forsyth Hyatte, whose husband, George Hyatte, pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery in the courtroom, and screamed "Shoot him! [the officer]" right before she opened fire. The officer was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, where he was pronounced dead.

Witnesses claimed that Jennifer Hyatte stormed out of the courthouse, where she got into a Ford Explorer, which was later found abandoned. Police later announced that they believed she was driving a gold Chevrolet Venture with the license plate number GFU-155. They also said that George Hyatte got into the Ford Explorer that his wife was driving.

On August 10, the Chevrolet Venture used was found in the parking lot of an Econo Lodge in Erlanger, Kentucky, but neither Hyatte was found. The same night the Hyattes were charged with first-degree murder.

Capture

On August 10, 2005, around 10:00pm, the Hyattes were captured at an America's Best Value Inn located in Columbus, Ohio. The couple was captured after a cab driver named Mike Wagers drove them from Erlanger, Kentucky, to the hotel. The Hyattes reportedly said that they were attending an Amway convention. Wagers later called the police and SWAT team from the Columbus Police captured them. It was reported that weapons were found in the hotel.

Court proceedings

On September 17, 2007, Jennifer Hyatte pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections website, her TOMIS (Tennessee Offender Management Information System) number is 00394869, her imprisonment began on 10 August 2005 and she is incarcerated at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville.

As a condition of the plea bargain which allowed her to avoid the death penalty, she agreed to testify against George Hyatte. However her testimony was not required because subsequently, George Hyatte did not contest the charges made against him. On March 9, 2009, he pleaded guilty to all charges, including the first-degree murder of guard Wayne "Cotton" Morgan. As a result, George Hyatte was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

 
 

Woman who killed prison guard wrote life story in jail

By Scott Barker - KnoxNews.com

April 26, 2009

KINGSTON - In the days following her Aug. 11, 2005, arrest for the murder of a Tennessee prison guard, Jennifer Hyatte found herself in an Ohio jail cell that she described as "nasty," writing her life story in pencil.

Hyatte, then 31, had been arrested in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, career criminal George Hyatte, two days after she killed correction officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan and wounded correction officer Larry "Porky" Harris outside the Roane County Courthouse.

Hyatte wanted to tell their story. She gave the memoir a title: "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde."

She never finished it.

Jailers in the Franklin County (Ohio) Jail confiscated the manuscript, along with letters to friends and family.

Now that she and her husband have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison without parole, the manuscript is a public record that the News Sentinel obtained through a request of prosecutors.

It presents a tale - true or otherwise - of drug, alcohol and psychological abuse, told in a straightforward narrative of sometimes coarse prose by a woman jailed for murder and taking painkillers for gunshot wounds suffered in the Kingston shootout.

A common theme throughout the work's 34 pages is Hyatte's perceived lack of control over her life. She presents herself as a mere pawn in a game played by others.

"I never had a choice on whether or not I wanted to do anything," she writes.

'All of my secrets'

The manuscript covers her childhood and young adulthood in Utah and ends with her arrival in West Tennessee in 2001, before she met the man she loved so much, she committed murder to set him free.

Hyatte's first memory, she writes, is of attending her parents' divorce hearing in Emery County, Utah, where she and a younger sister grew up.

When her father later remarried, the girls weren't invited to the wedding.

For four years, she claims, a member of her father's new family molested her and her sister.

"We never told anybody, ever," she writes.

Hyatte took solace in horses. One of her aunts owned several horses and Hyatte fell in love with a retired thoroughbred named Weaver. She describes him as her best friend.

"I told him all of my secrets and he always seemed to listen," she writes. "We could run like the wind or just stand and let the wind run over us."

One day, Hyatte recalls, she walked out of the barn and ran into her aunt, who told her Weaver had been sold. Hyatte was crushed.

"Well, that ended everything for me. I slowly just backed away from the horses for good," she writes.

At age 15, she writes, her interests turned to alcohol, drugs and older men - her boyfriend at the time was 25 years old. She would sneak out of her mother's house to go partying, even learning how to disconnect the odometer cable to cover her tracks.

Hyatte shuttled back and forth between her parents' houses. Once, while living with her father, a sheriff's deputy, she inadvertently stopped a drug raid planned by the sheriff's department.

"I was in my dad's truck at the house they planned on busting and they didn't do anything because I was there," she writes.

'Someone to make me smile'

The summer before her senior year in high school in Utah, she met the man who would be her first husband. The night before the wedding, Hyatte writes, she found him curled up in the arms of another woman. Hyatte was 18 years old. And three months pregnant.

After accepting her fiance's explanation, the pregnant 18-year-old went forward with the ceremony.

Eventually, Hyatte would give birth to two boys and a girl. The marriage, according to Hyatte, was filled with arguments, drug abuse and heavy drinking. In 1996, she recalls, she tried cocaine for the first time.

"I was hooked after the first hit and I wanted more and more and more," she writes.

She also writes that she was "sold off" whenever they didn't have enough money for drugs, implying that she traded sex for drugs and/or money. Hyatte said she quit doing cocaine after a six-month binge when she came home to find her three children staring at her as though she were a stranger.

In the space of a few weeks in 1999, Hyatte writes, her husband was arrested twice on drug charges, including the construction of a methamphetamine lab in the basement of their three-bedroom house, and once for DUI with minors in the vehicle, his fourth such offense. Hyatte writes that he went to prison.

"At this point in my life I had absolutely no self-esteem, no character, no substance, no anything," she writes. "So I just looked for someone to make me smile, something I haven't done in years."

She found that someone, a large man she describes as sweet but too much of a pushover. She divorced her first husband and married the man, though the second marriage appeared doomed from the start.

Thirty minutes after saying, "I do," Jennifer Hyatte was stopped in her tracks by a friend of one of the wedding guests. She instantly was smitten by the man, referred to only as Travis.

She and Travis, who also was a friend of her husband, began an affair, she writes. They went waterskiing often. On camping trips she would sneak into his tent and even managed to run off with Travis to a Nevada casino. There were hints of trouble in that relationship, too, she writes. She accuses Travis of keeping $700 of her winnings from the trip.

Her second husband found out about the affair, but that didn't stop Hyatte and Travis, she writes. Eventually, Hyatte's second husband left and Travis moved in. That didn't work either.

"I was too niave [sic] to see that Travis was still to [sic] much of a kid to be with someone with kids," she writes. "He was always wanting to drop them off with someone and go party."

Hyatte writes that she had an affair with Travis' best friend.

About this time, mid-2001, a friend named Tina who lived in Nashville kept asking Hyatte to come to the Music City. Leaving her children with her father, Hyatte flew to Tennessee.

"I fell in love with it in Tennessee and I told Tina that I was going home, packing my (belongings) and moving out here," she writes.

Another friend found her a place to stay in Big Sandy, Tenn., west of Nashville near Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. On Sept. 15, 2001, a friend with a truck offered to take her, her family and their belongings cross-country.

"So I loaded the kids up and we headed to TN," she writes.

Best days of her life

The manuscript ends mid-sentence on the next page. The jailers had confiscated the document, along with letters to family and friends.

Sometime after that, Hyatte took a nursing job at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tenn., near the shores of Reelfoot Lake. In one of her confiscated letters, she indicates that she fell in love with inmate George Hyatte the instant she saw him.

When prison officials found out about their relationship, they fired Jennifer Hyatte. She married George Hyatte anyway, in a May 2005 ceremony at the prison. Three months later, she shot Morgan in the courthouse parking lot in Kingston and drove off with her husband. They spent one night together in a Kentucky motel room before their arrest the next night at a Columbus, Ohio, motel.

In her letters from her Ohio cell, Hyatte writes that for the first time, she had taken control of her own destiny.

Those two days on the run with her husband, she writes, were the best of her life.

 
 

Hyatte's jail letters detail shooting

By Scott Barker - KnoxNews.com

April 22, 2009

KINGSTON - On the morning of Aug. 9, 2005, Jennifer Hyatte sat in a blue Ford Explorer watching the columned portico of the Roane County Courthouse. When she saw her shackled husband George descend the steps, flanked by guards poised to take him back to prison, she pulled up to the Tennessee Department of Correction transport van.

"I jumped out and had the gun in my hand and George seen what I did and said, 'Oh, s---, Jen,' and the officer grabbed at the gun and I shot him," Jennifer Hyatte wrote in a letter to relatives.

Witnesses said at the time they'd heard George Hyatte say, "Shoot him." Either way, when the shooting stopped, correction officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan lay dying, and Jennifer Hyatte sped off, bleeding from a gunshot wound to her backside but reunited with the man she loved.

Jennifer Hyatte's matter-of-fact account of Morgan's killing comes from a letter she wrote while in an Ohio jail cell. The News Sentinel obtained copies of her never-sent letters, which were confiscated before her extradition to Tennessee, after a public records request to prosecutors.

Jennifer Hyatte pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the shooting. Her husband pleaded guilty, too, though last week he filed a motion to withdraw the plea. Both have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After the shooting, the Hyattes fled to Columbus, Ohio, where they were captured two days later in a motel by a law enforcement team led by U.S. Marshals.

Taking antibiotics and pain medication, Jennifer Hyatte wrote that she spent her days awaiting extradition "reading and eating and sleeping" when not thinking about George Hyatte.

"I love you so damn much, and still nobody can understand why," Jennifer Hyatte wrote to her husband.

Records show George Hyatte has an extensive record of violent crimes dating back to 1990, but a prosecutor in Rhea County, where George Hyatte began his criminal career as a thief, also described him as a smooth-talking ladies' man.

Correction officials said Jennifer Hyatte was fired from her job as a nurse at Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville because of her relationship with George Hyatte. They were married in a prison service in May 2005.

Jennifer Hyatte described their relationship as "celestial love," a term she appropriated from a counselor/minister who interviewed her in the Franklin County (Ohio) Jail. The upshot, according to Jennifer Hyatte, was that she and her husband were more than soulmates - they were two halves of the same soul.

At the time of his escape, George Hyatte was serving sentences totaling 41 years for a variety of offenses. In her confiscated letter to him, Jennifer Hyatte refers to the Star of David, which is a symbol of the Gangster Disciples, a Chicago-based gang. She was, evidently, willing to be recruited.

"I hope that you got my letter about going active again and making me part too," she wrote.

In letters to friends and family, her tone is typically breezy and light, even asking relatives jokingly how her recently dyed hair looked on television.

"Hello from up here in Ohio, how is everybody doing?" she wrote to an aunt. To another aunt, she wrote: "How is everybody doing on this fine evening? Wonderful, I hope. As for me, I am doing very well."

She seems bemused by her notoriety, signing some of the letters "Bonnie" and calling her husband "Clyde," references to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the Depression-era gangsters. At the bottom of one letter, she scribbled: "The whole Bonnie and Clyde thing kills me!!!"

Remorse for killing Morgan was in short supply. Though in one letter she wrote that she was "sorry that people got hurt," Jennifer Hyatte also referred to the two days she spent on the lam with her husband as "the best two days of my life."

At her sentencing hearing Sept. 17, 2008, Jennifer Hyatte sobbed as she read from a statement: "I can't ask you to forgive me, because what I've done is unforgivable and I don't deserve it. I just want to tell you all how truly sorry I am for what happened. It will live in the core of my heart and soul for eternity."

Throughout the letters, Jennifer Hyatte talks about being pregnant at the time of the shooting and describes her battles with morning sickness. What happened to the fetus, if there was one, isn't known.

"Jennifer Hyatt has not delivered a baby since she's been at the Tennessee Prison for Women," Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said.

Conjugal visits aren't allowed in Tennessee prisons, Carter said, so if Jennifer Hyatte was pregnant and her husband the father, then any tryst they might have arranged prior to the escape would have been illegal.

Jennifer Hyatte in her letters repeatedly insisted she wasn't "brainwashed." She wrote that her husband tried to talk her out of the breakout, but she took control of the situation. She apparently looked at her actions as liberating. Being able to make her own choices, she wrote, was "an awesome, peaceful and serene feeling."

"My mom thinks that I shouldn't be held responsible and that I'm crazy and that I've been 'brainwashed,' " she complained in one letter. "She just doesn't want to face the fact that I killed someone and did it in cold blood."

 
 

Jennifer Hyatte pleads guilty to officer's murder

By Adam Longo - 6 News Anchor

September 17, 2007

KINGSTON (WATE) -- Jennifer Hyatte pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a corrections officer as she helped her husband escape after a hearing at the Roane County Court House in August 2005.

In a deal with the prosecution, Jennifer Hyatte also pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and facilitating the escape of her husband, George Hyatte, in the death of Officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan.

The deal allows Hyatte to avoid the death penalty. Instead, she'll spend the rest of her life in prison without the possibility of parole. The plea agreement also states that Jennifer Hyatte must testify against her husband if his case makes it to trial.

Hyatte did not allocute to her crime. Instead, District Attorney General Russell Johnson read a statement of facts in the case agreed upon by the defense.

Two people took the stand today to read family impact statements to Hyatte. Dean Harris, wife of corrections officer Larry Harris, asked Hyatte repeatedly if 36 hours of freedom was worth it. Hyatte sat still, choking back tears and noddding her head back and forth as if to say it wasn't.

Officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan's son, Dennis Morgan, took the stand next.

"Your choices caused my sister and I to be without a father," he said to Hyatte. "Your choices caused my mom to be without her companion."

Hyatte herself prepared a statement to read. Her hair covered half of her face and she continued to cry as she addressed the victim's families.

"Most of all, I want to give my deepest apologies to the families," Hyatte said. "I just want you to know that I am truly sorry. There's no way to make up for what I've done. I can't ask you to forgive me because what I've done is unforgivable. I don't deserve it.

"We just hope that she meant she was really sorry," said Cotton Morgan's widow, Viann, after the court proceedings had ended.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson told 6 News the plea agreement was agreed upon by the families involved.

"After a couple of days mulling it over with the extended family, they met as a group and decided that's what they wanted to do," said Johnson.

"We know she's going to be locked up. But yet, daily life go on for us," said Viann Morgan.

Her husband, George Hyatte, is scheduled to go on trial on March 25, 2008.

George Hyatte is also facing first-degree murder charges in Officer Morgan's death.  

In August, a judge ruled the jury for George Hyatte's trial will be selected from another county.

Jennifer and George Hyatte were arrested in a Columbus, Ohio, motel about 36 hours after the shooting. Police got a call from a cab driver who took them there from the Cincinnati area.

A judge had denied a defense attorney's motion to suppress Jennifer Hyatte's diary titled "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde." She left it in her Ohio jail cell.

Instead, the diary would have been used as evidence against her in trial.

Jennifer met George Hyatte in prison. She's a former prison nurse. She begins serving her sentence immediately at the Tennesseee Women's Correctional Facility in Nashville.

 
 

Ex-prison nurse pleads guilty to murder

By Beth Rucker - Associated Press

September 17, 2007

KINGSTON, Tenn. A former prison nurse pleaded guilty Monday to killing a corrections officer while helping her inmate husband escape and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Jennifer Hyatte, 33, appeared in white prison overalls with handcuffs and ankle shackles at the same Roane County courthouse where she was accused of killing Correction Officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan.

She apologized as she stood near an enlarged photo of Morgan that his family set up near the front of the gallery. Fifteen uniformed correction officers attended the hearing.

"I can't ask for you to forgive me because what I've done is unforgivable, and I don't deserve it," she said. "I would take it all back if I could, and I would still accept the punishment."

Criminal Court Judge Eugene Eblen sentenced Hyatte to life for first-degree murder, 15 years for the attempted first-degree murder of another guard that she wounded and three years for facilitating her husband's escape. The sentences will run concurrently.

Hyatte shot Morgan and the other guard Aug. 9, 2005, as they escorted her husband George Hyatte from a court appearance back to van waiting to return him to prison. The couple fled the state, but were captured 36 hours later at a motel in Columbus, Ohio.

George Hyatte, 36, remains in jail, serving a 41-year sentence for robbery and related offenses.

Jennifer Hyatte got a job with a state contractor in 2004 that took her into a prison to provide health care to state inmates. She was fired five months later after sneaking food into the prison for George Hyatte. He was transferred to a prison in Nashville, but that didn't end the relationship.

The couple applied to the chaplain at the prison for permission to marry and were wed May 20, 2005.

Jennifer Hyatte wrote about her crime in a 34-page diary that she titled "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde." In it, she calls George Hyatte the love of her life. Authorities found the collection of letters and notes in her Ohio jail cell after she was sent back to Tennessee.

As part of the plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, Hyatte must testify in her husband's murder trial.

Prosecutors consulted the Morgan family, who approved the deal.

"Your choice has caused my sister and I to be without our father," Morgan's son, Dennis Harris, told Hyatte. "Your choice has caused our mother to be without her companion."

Dean Harris, the wife of injured deputy Larry Harris, also spoke to Hyatte: "For 36 hours of freedom? 36 hours? I can't get my mind around that. For 36 hours with George, you murder and attempt murder. Was it worth it?"

 
 

Couple back at scene of slaying

Former Utah woman, husband brought to Tennessee courthouse

DeseretNews.com

August 23, 2005

KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) A couple charged in the killing of a corrections officer during a getaway outside a small-town courthouse returned to the same building Monday under heavy security.

U.S. marshals brought prison inmate George Hyatte and his wife, Jennifer, to Tennessee from Columbus, Ohio, where they had been held since their arrests Aug. 10.

They were caught some 36 hours after authorities say Jennifer Hyatte, a former prison nurse and Utah resident, fatally wounded a guard while helping her husband escape. George Hyatte had been at the courthouse for a hearing.

"Dirty dogs. Sorry dogs," Sandra Brackett, one of a handful of onlookers, said as the couple was escorted to the county jail for fingerprinting and booking.

More than 40 officers, some with shotguns and several wearing bulletproof vests, surrounded the county jail as marshals pulled up with the Hyattes and several police cruiser escorts.

The nearby Roane County Courthouse was closed to the public while the Hyattes were arraigned separately. They then were whisked away to maximum-security prisons until their next scheduled court appearances Aug. 31.

"It is a relief to have those people back and in custody, because where they are at now they are not going to cause anybody any trouble," Sheriff David Haggard said.

Authorities accuse Jennifer Hyatte of ambushing the guards who were transporting her husband. Corrections officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56, was killed and Jennifer Hyatte was shot in the leg by a guard.

The Hyattes were captured late the next day at a budget motel in Columbus after the cab driver who drove them to the city called police.

George Hyatte, 34, has a long criminal record of robberies, assault and escape and already is serving a 41-year sentence. Jennifer Hyatte, 31, had been fired from her prison job because of her relationship with Hyatte, whom she married this year.

 
 

Ambush suspect asked father for handcuff key

Tip might have thwarted the courthouse shooting

By Joseph M. Dougherty - Deseret News

August 13, 2005

WEST JORDAN About a month ago, Floyd Forsyth received a call from his daughter in Tennessee, Jennifer Hyatte.

Hyatte asked her father, a former police officer, about getting a handcuff key. She told him her husband, George Hyatte, was about to get out of prison.

Little did Forsyth know how ominous that conversation really was.

Tuesday, Jennifer Hyatte, 31, is alleged to have planned an armed ambush on two corrections officers killing one and injuring the other while they escorted her husband, George Hyatte, 34, from a Kingston, Tenn., courthouse.

George Hyatte, indeed, got out of prison. But his freedom was short- lived.

The couple fled in a gold minivan to north-central Kentucky and took a cab to Columbus, Ohio. It was there that U.S. marshals converged on a motel and arrested the Hyattes, now called a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.

Forsyth is devastated over the turn of events Tuesday and Wednesday, said Sally Lambson, Forsyth's ex-wife and Jennifer Hyatte's mother.

When Jennifer called him a month ago, he thought the request for a handcuff key sounded suspicious. So Forsyth, who is on probation for possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone, got in touch with his probation officer, Lambson said.

"I thought maybe she was going to pass him a key," Forsyth, now a diesel mechanic, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from his Huntington home.

"But there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to do something. I just didn't know it would be this."

Forsyth shared his suspicions with his probation officer on July 28, but that information never got to authorities in Tennessee.

Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said information was being gathered to send to Tennessee, but a request for a handcuff key didn't sound too serious at the time.

Ford said the probation officer could have sent the information sooner, but there also was no way to know how the tip might have been received.

But Lambson believes the information was vital.

"A life would have been saved if the state had done what they were supposed to do," she said.

Forsyth told Lambson he would have contacted author ities in Tennessee himself, but he felt he should go through the proper channels.

Ford said Forsyth is a model probationer and has been since being put under the department's jurisdiction. Ford also said Forsyth never sent his daughter the requested handcuff key and in fact didn't have one.

In Ohio, the Hyattes objected Friday to being sent back to Tennessee to face charges.

George Hyatte seemingly was prepared to waive his right to challenge extradition and return to Tennessee, according to the Associated Press, but when his lawyer leaned in and explained that Jennifer Hyatte had decided to fight extradition, he sighed deeply and argued briefly with his lawyer.

"I don't want to leave without her," said Hyatte, who had on two sets of handcuffs chained tightly to his waist. "I don't want to. I don't want to."

His wife had appeared only moments earlier. Jennifer Hyatte appeared dazed and did not talk during the hearing. She showed almost no emotion until the judge informed her that the charge carries a possible death penalty. She then sighed and leaned back in her chair, AP reported.

Another hearing has been set for Sept. 8. The couple can be held in Ohio for up to 90 days.

Lambson said she has not had contact with her daughter since before she was arrested.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people, including 200 uniformed officers, attended the funeral for the dead guard Friday in Tennessee. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56, was buried with full military honors.

 
 

Death sentence talk stuns Jennifer Hyatte

By Scott Barker and Tom Chester - Knoxville News Sentinel

August 13, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - If Jennifer Hyatte stopped during her flight to Ohio this week to read a paper or watch the news, she would have seen her face on front pages and television screens.

Authorities had accused her of murder. With a nationwide manhunt for her and her husband, she must have known she was in a world of trouble.

She switched cars, dyed her hair and lied to a cabbie about her travels.

Still, when Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer Brunner told her on Friday she could get the death penalty if convicted in Tennessee, she slumped back in her chair.

Her court-appointed lawyer, John Sproat, when asked afterward if she'd been aware of the death penalty risk, said, "I don't think so - probably not."

Hyatte, 31, and her husband, George Hyatte, 34, will stay in an Ohio jail for at least another month as they fight extradition to Tennessee, where they face first-degree murder charges in Tuesday morning's shooting death of correction officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56, in Kingston.

Brunner set a Sept. 8 hearing date. In the meantime, Gov. Phil Bredesen must issue a warrant to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft for the couple's interstate transfer. Ohio authorities can hold the Hyattes for up to 90 days, and it's up to Tennessee officials to prove to an Ohio judge's satisfaction that the Hyattes are, indeed, the people wanted by authorities in connection with Morgan's slaying.

During a trip to Wartburg for Morgan's funeral three hours after the hearings, Bredesen did not comment on the Hyattes' first court appearance since being arrested at a Columbus motel Wednesday night.

After the back-to-back hearings, which together lasted less than 15 minutes, the former prison nurse and her career criminal husband went back to the Franklin County jail. Brunner refused them bail.

Five deputies escorted Jennifer Hyatte into the courtroom at 10:27 a.m. She limped from the gunshot wound she sustained in her left leg during Tuesday's gun battle at the Roane County Courthouse. She wore green pants and a tan smock.

A mother of three who doesn't have a criminal record, Hyatte appeared dazed, her wide eyes shifting from the judge to the journalists sitting in the jury box. Shackled around her waist and ankles, she held her cuffed hands before her chest in an attitude of prayer.

After Brunner explained the extradition process, Jennifer Hyatte talked briefly with her lawyer before returning to her cell.

A few minutes later, the deputies returned with George Hyatte. A slightly built man with a history of sometimes-violent escapes, he, too, was shackled at the waist and ankles. He wore two sets of handcuffs and complained about the discomfort when he entered.

At first, the agitated Hyatte argued with his attorney, public defender Robert Essex, and told Brunner he wanted to waive his right to an extradition hearing.

"I don't want to leave without her," he said. "I don't want to. I don't want to."

However, upon learning from his lawyer that his wife had opted to fight extradition, he changed his mind.

"Whatever my wife did, that's what I want to do," he said.

Brunner said the in-court exchange added an unusual twist to the already rare decision to fight extradition.

"That's the first time in 4 1/2 years I've seen a dialogue on extradition between an attorney and his client in the courtroom," Brunner said afterward.

Authorities allege Jennifer Hyatte shot Morgan as the 28-year veteran prison guard and a partner were escorting her husband out of the Roane County Courthouse following a hearing on an aggravated burglary charge.

According to a complaint filed by the lead investigator in Roane County General Sessions Court, George Hyatte yelled at the defendant to shoot Morgan. She did, Kingston Police Department Investigator Randy Heidle wrote, before exchanging shots with the other correction officer, Larry Harris.

Though wounded in the gunfight, Jennifer Hyatte allegedly drove her husband to a nearby Subway sandwich shop, where they abandoned her Ford Explorer in favor of a gold Chevrolet minivan reported stolen from one of her patients in Hendersonville, Tenn.

About four hours later they stopped at a Lowe's in the Cincinnati suburb of Florence, Ky., where they bought a hacksaw, apparently to cut off his shackles. They rented a room in the Econo Lodge about a mile away in the adjacent town of Erlanger.

After spending the night in Erlanger, the couple took a $185 cab ride to Columbus, where they checked into America's Best Value Inn. Once settled in, they ordered Mexican food and smoked Marlboros.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kentucky had found the gold minivan and the cab driver had reported his unusual passengers, who told him they had wrecked their car while going to an Amway convention, to police.

A hastily formed task force of U.S. marshals and Columbus Police Department SWAT team members converged on the motel. Deputy U.S. Marshal Nikki Ralston phoned room 236B and convinced a weary Jennifer Hyatte to surrender.

Once in custody, she told Ralston she thought the justice system was unfair and didn't want more time added to her husband's already lengthy sentence.

George Hyatte, who gave up immediately after she did, has served two years of a 35-year sentence for aggravated assault and aggravated burglary. Minutes before his escape in Kingston he had pleaded guilty to another burglary.

Ralston said Jennifer Hyatte was "very apologetic" during their conversation before a trip to the hospital for treatment of the gunshot wound.

"She didn't want anybody to get hurt," Ralston said. "She just wanted to be with him."

The Hyattes' flight captivated a nation for a few days and left its mark on communities in three states.

In Wartburg, a family buried a husband and father. Law enforcement officers from as far away as Canada paid their respects to a fallen brother.

The television trucks are gone from Kingston, and people again are going to the courthouse to renew their license tags and pay property taxes.

At the Econo Lodge in Erlanger, the only place the Hyattes spent an entire night together since George Hyatte went back to prison in 2003, the staff on Friday cleaned up room 111.

The Hyattes left behind four bags of chips, three cans of Pepsi, two packs of cherry turnovers and a box of Buffalo chicken wings.

On one of the beds sat a good-as-new teddy bear, about 3 feet tall with shaggy, cinnamon fur and a plaid bow around its neck. It looks like just the kind of present someone would give a sweetheart at a county fair in a more innocent time.

 
 

Amway claim gave fugitives away, cabbie says

'They weren't very pushy about their product'

Msnbc.msn.com

August 11, 2005

The cabbie who picked up the couple suspected in a deadly courthouse escape in Tennessee said Thursday he did not buy their story that they needed to get to Ohio for an Amway convention.

A tip from cabdriver Mike Wagers led police to George and Jennifer Hyatte, who were arrested without a struggle Wednesday night at a budget motel in Columbus, Ohio, authorities said.

Wagers said the pair told him they were headed to an Amway convention and that he became suspicious because they didn't act like Amway representatives.

"Amway people are all about Amway, and when they didn't try any conversation further about it, that's when I pretty much thought, 'Well, they're not with Amway; they're doing something else.'"

But, he told reporters, "they gave me no cause for suspicion other than the Amway thing didn't really stick."

Wagers said he drove the Hyattes about 115 miles from Erlanger, Ky., to Columbus, and dropped them off at a budget motel. The fare was $185 and the couple handed him two $100 bills at the start of the trip, he said.

'Little bit light on the tip'

"In the cab business, technically that might've been a little bit light on the tip but when you're getting a $185 cash trip, when they only throw in another $15, you're not going to think anything bad. You're going to say you appreciate it and you're going to go on your way," Wagers said.

Jennifer Hyatte is accused of ambushing two prison guards Tuesday as they were leading her husband a convicted robber from a hearing in Kingston, Tenn., fatally shooting one before the couple sped away, authorities said.

Wagers said he did not realize during the trip that Jennifer Hyatte had been shot in the leg by one of the guards.

He said she favored one side when she got out of the cab, and told him she had hurt herself in a car accident in northern Kentucky. She had colored her hair black from light brown.

Motel manager Kundan Desai said Wagers checked the couple in around lunchtime, paying cash for a three-night stay in a room that runs $52.99 a night.

Connection came later

Wagers said he didn't make the connection with the killing until he returned to Kentucky and a friend told him the fugitive couple's van had been found near where he had picked up his passengers.

"I was at home relaxing, playing video games, when I heard I might be the one," he said.

The Hyattes were arrested at the America's Best Value Inn in Columbus after at least 25 officers surrounded their room, ending a more than 300-mile manhunt, authorities said.

When police finally tracked the couple down at the motel, Deputy U.S. Marshal Nikki Ralston called their second-floor room and told them they were surrounded.

"A female answered the phone," Ralston said. "And I said, 'Hey, Jennifer.' She said, 'Yes,' and I knew it was her."

"I said you need to get George, both of you need to exit the hotel room and follow the directions of the officers who will be to your immediate right," Ralston said.

Witness: Fugitives showed no emotion

Motel guest Robin Penn, who was watching from across the parking lot, said Jennifer Hyatte was limping as she left the room with her hands up.

John Bolen, a supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service in Columbus, said Jennifer Hyatte was concerned for her husband and asked officers not to hurt him.

"She was hollering in to him, 'Baby, baby, it'll be OK! It'll be OK!'" Bolen said.

George Hyatte then came out with his shirt pulled over his head, walked backward toward the stairwell, got on his knees and was handcuffed, Penn said.

"They really didn't show any emotion at all," Penn said.

Inside the couple's motel room, cans of Mountain Dew and Hawaiian Punch littered the nightstand, and bags of takeout food wrappers were on a desk. One of the two mattresses was pushed halfway off the box spring.

Authorities said they also recovered weapons.

Both suspects now in jail

George Hyatte was taken to the Franklin County jail, said John Bolen, a supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service in Columbus. Jennifer Hyatte was treated for the bullet wound to the leg, then taken to the jail early Thursday, police said.

The couple was expected to be brought back to Tennessee on warrants for first-degree murder in the death of Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56, authorities said.

Earlier Wednesday, outside a motel in Erlanger, authorities had tracked down a van the couple was believed to have used. 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.

Escape artist

George Hyatte, 34, had been in court to plead guilty to a robbery charge before the escape Tuesday. He was two years into a 35-year sentence for robbery and assault.

The escape was at least the fifth time he had gotten away from law enforcement officials between 1990 and 2002

Jennifer Hyatte, 31, met her husband as a prison nurse and was fired last year for sneaking food to him. A few months later, she got permission from the warden to marry Hyatte, who has a long and violent criminal record.

Her ex-husband, Eli Gourdin, told the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City that he last spoke with her Monday when she told him she was excited because George was going to be released.

"We don't know George, we can't judge George ...," Gourdin's current wife, Katie, told the paper. "We only know what Jennifer's told us. She's very much in love with him."

Eli Gourdin said Jennifer Hyatte had custody of their three children, the oldest of whom is 12. The children have been staying with him for the summer, he said.

 
 

Sheriff: 'I Would Recommend Death'

FoxNews.com

August 11, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio The fugitive couple accused of murdering a corrections officer in Tennessee should get the harshest penalty available, Roane County, Tenn., Sheriff Dave Haggard said Thursday.

"I would recommend death," Haggard said during an afternoon press conference. He added: "I'm sure they can get a fair trial in this state."

George and Jennifer Hyatte, who were captured Wednesday night after pulling off a bold and deadly courthouse escape the day before, waived extradition Thursday, allowing authorities to send them from Ohio to Tennessee. They will appear in court at 10 a.m. Friday.

The pair were captured Wednesday night at a budget motel in Columbus. They were caught more than two days after the daylight escape from the courthouse in Kingston, Tenn., following a tip from a cab driver who gave the couple a lift.

Mike Wagers, the cabbie who picked them up, drove the Hyattes about 115 miles from Erlanger, Ky., to Columbus, and dropped them off at a budget motel. The fare was $185, and the couple handed him two $100 bills at the start of the trip, he said.

He said the Hyattes couple told him they needed to get to Columbus for an Amway convention.

"I didn't believe that," Wagers said at a Thursday news conference. "But they gave me no cause [to be] suspicious, other than the Amway thing didn't really stick."

When asked if the suspects were worried about being noticed, Wagers said "there was no whispering, it was not a hush-hush situation. To them I was just a normal cabdriver." Experience had taught him, he said, that real Amway sellers are aggressive about their products.

A SWAT team nabbed George and Jennifer Hyatte without incident at an America's Best Value Inn in Columbus, Ohio, said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"We have found weapons [at the motel]. We don't know if it's the murder weapon, but we're processing those," Gwyn said.

Jennifer Hyatte, 31, is accused of shooting Guard Wayne "Cotton" Morgan dead after ambushing him and his partner as they escorted her husband, 34, from a courthouse hearing in Kingston, Tenn.

Gwyn said the Hyattes would be brought back to Tennessee on warrants for first degree murder. They were arrested nearly 300 miles north of Kingston. Jennifer Hyatte had some injuries, he said, but he declined to elaborate.

Early Thursday authorities confirmed that George Hyatte was being held in Franklin County Jail in Ohio, but would not confirm the whereabouts of Jennifer.

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.

After the tip, authorities surrounded the 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.

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

"It seems they had several vehicles at very strategic locations and help withe escape," Gwyn told FOX News on Thursday. "We'll be investigating in the next several days if anyone else was involved in this."

Blood was found in the motel room, and an employee at a nearby restaurant told federal agents she gave directions 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.

Gwyn told FOX News on Thursday that it was lucky no one was injured in the capture of the fugitives.

"We knew that this couple was pretty desperate. They didn't have a lot to lose ... We were very fortunate not to have any injuries."

 
 

SWAT Team Nabs Fugitive Couple

August 11, 2005

KINGSTON, Tenn. Authorities on Wednesday captured a fugitive couple who had been on the run for over 24 hours after orchestrating an escape outside a Tennessee courthouse that left an officer dead.

A SWAT team nabbed George and Jennifer Hyatte in a hotel in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier, authorities found a van the Hyattes had used to escape at a Kentucky motel.

Rich Knighten, spokesman for the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Kentucky, said George and Jennifer Hyatte had been inside the motel in Erlanger, Ky., about 200 miles north of the Tennessee courthouse where they made their deadly escape. Erlanger is just south of Cincinnati.

Jennifer Hyatte, who was a prison nurse while her husband was an inmate, now stands charged with gunning down a correctional officer Tuesday while freeing her husband. The 31-year-old had never been in trouble with the law before.

Jennifer was fired from her job as prison nurse for sneaking food to George before the two were married. A few months later she received permission from the warden to wed George, a man with a long and violent criminal record.

"You are left grappling for answers and trying to figure it out. What was she thinking?" Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Wednesday.

"I guess it is anyone's guess," Johnson said. "She married the guy, so you have to assume there is some sort of love connection."

Police believe Jennifer Hyatte came to this town of 5,500 on Monday with two getaway cars a Ford Explorer in her name that was later dumped and a gold Chevrolet van stolen from one of her home-nursing clients near Nashville.

She is believed to have ambushed two guards as they were leading George Hyatte from a courthouse hearing, fatally shooting one of them veteran Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56 and then speeding away with her husband.

When asked by FOX News why the maximum-security prisoner was not better guarded, Roane County Sheriff David Haggard replied, "I don't think anything could have been done unless you were a mind reader."

Authorities found large amounts of blood in the abandoned vehicle and believe she was wounded.

Frank Harvey, the prosecutor who secured a guilty plea from George Hyatte on Tuesday to a robbery charge and may be prosecuting him again if he is caught, said: "Well, it's like Willie Nelson's song, 'Ladies love outlaws like babies love stray dogs' ... or something like that."

By Wednesday, 35 to 45 leads an hour were coming in as part of a manhunt.

"We're getting information from all kinds of places, and we're running every lead. We've got state and federal agencies assisting in the manhunt," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said. "I don't recall in my 20 years ever being in this type of escape."

Early last year, Jennifer Forsyth earned a diploma as a licensed practical nurse and got a job with a state contractor that took her into Northwest Correctional Complex to provide health care to state inmates.

She was fired five months later after sneaking food into the prison for Hyatte, a 34-year-old inmate with a record of robberies and escapes stretching back more than a decade. He was transferred the next month to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

But that didn't end the relationship.

Forsyth and Hyatte applied on Nov. 30, 2004, to the chaplain at the prison for permission to marry. The two were wed May 20.

George Hyatte's escape Tuesday was at least the fifth time has gotten way from law enforcement officials. The other escapes were from local authorities in east Tennessee in 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2002.

During the escape three years ago, Hyatte and another prisoner escaped from a county jail after threatening guards with a homemade knife made out of toothbrushes and a razor blade.

When one guard turned over keys to the armed inmates, they then used them to beat another officer until he was unconscious. The escape ended a few days later when the two were captured in Florida.

Danny Wright, head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol's criminal investigation division, recalled assisting in a search for Hyatte a few years ago after he escaped from a patrol car, with another woman's help, after a convenience store robbery. Hyatte was found the next day at a home outside town, buried under a pile of clothes.

"He's pretty good at hiding," Wright said.

Hyatte's parents divorced when he was young, and he moved between the homes of relatives and state custody for years. He first entered the court system when he was 9 for school truancy and unruly behavior. By the time he was 17 he had already been through a treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse.

After dropping out of school, he racked up charges for burglary, theft, armed robbery and striking an officer. He was acquitted of aggravated rape. A presentencing report from 1993, when Hyatte was 21, described him as a repeat offender with little work history and "a tendency toward violence."

James Polk, who previously represented Hyatte as a public defender, described him as a smooth talker.

"In court he is 'Yes sir,' 'no sir' and 'please.' He always had this look about him of `Who me?' as if he was wrongly accused," Polk said.

The lawyer also recalled that Hyatte had a previous relationship with another nurse.

"He is kind of a ladies man, too," he said.

 
 

Wife kills guard in US jailbreak

BBC.co.uk

August 10, 2005

A US inmate has escaped after his wife shot dead a guard who was escorting the prisoner outside a courthouse in the state of Tennessee, authorities say.

Police say George and Jennifer Hyatte fled the scene in Kingston in a vehicle which was later found abandoned.

A hunt is under way for the former prison nurse and the escapee, who is described as "extremely violent".

Hyatte was in court to be tried on a robbery charge. He is already serving 35 years for robbery and assault.

'Shoot him'

The incident took place as officers were loading Hyatte and other inmates into a prison van outside the Roane County Courthouse, a local police chief said.

A woman drove up in a Ford Explorer, Jim Washam said.

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

Wayne Morgan died later in hospital.

A second officer returned fire, and the Ford Explorer was later found abandoned with blood on the driver's side.

Officers believe that the wife may have been wounded during the attack.

Authorities believe the pair then switched to a van.

Hyatte "is extremely violent, and he has no care or concern on what he does to anyone," said sheriff department spokesman Jeff Knight.

Jennifer Hyatte was a prison nurse who was sacked from her job in Tiptonville because of her relationship with Hyatte, a department spokeswoman said.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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