Police: Inmate's Wife Shoots Officer at Courthouse

August 9, 2005
Search under way for couple

KINGSTON, Tennessee (AP) -- A state inmate 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. as Hyatte, 34, and other prisoners were being loaded into a vehicle. Hyatte was handcuffed and shackled at the feet, authorities 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.

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.