Fugitive couple indicted in Tenn. guard's death, face death penalty
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD
Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- A fugitive couple accused of killing a prison guard during a daring courthouse escape were indicted on first-degree murder charges and could face the death penalty, prosecutors said Thursday.
A grand jury returned separate murder indictments against former prison nurse Jennifer Hyatte, 31, and her career criminal husband, George Hyatte, 34, in the Aug. 9 shooting of corrections officer Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, 56.
Morgan was killed in the parking lot of the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston, about 30 miles west of Knoxville, as he escorted George Hyatte from a hearing to a van to take him back to prison.
Morgan's partner, Larry Harris, testified at a preliminary hearing in Kingston last month that Jennifer Hyatte surprised the guards and began firing when George Hyatte yelled, "Shoot him."
Harris emptied his revolver, then used his dying partner's gun, firing 11 shots at the fleeing couple. Jennifer Hyatte was wounded but the two made their getaway. The Hyattes were caught 36 hours later in a motel in Columbus, Ohio.
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty on conviction, District Attorney General Scott McCluen said in a statement.
McCluen said he will seek separate trials because some evidence against Jennifer Hyatte could not be used if George Hyatte were also a defendant.
That evidence likely is Jennifer Hyatte's 34-page diary about the crime found in the Ohio motel room. She titled it "A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," referring to the Depression-era bank-robbing lovers, and wrote that Hyatte was the love of her life.
Prosecutors expect the defendants to be arraigned Monday and held without bond pending their trials.
George Hyatte is ineligible for bond because he is serving a 41-year sentence for robbery and related offenses. Jennifer Hyatte, a divorced mother of three who met and married George Hyatte in prison and lost her prison nursing job over the relationship, had no prior criminal record.
The trials will be set for March, McCluen said. Besides murder, the Hyattes were each charged with attempted first-degree murder. George Hyatte was also charged with escape, and Jennifer Hyatte with facilitating a prisoner's escape.