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September 30, 2005
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Fugitive couple appears in court for Tenn. guard shooting

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
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.






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