Skip to main content

Fugitive couple captured

The Hyattes were apprehended Wednesday night at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio.




COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Roughly 36 hours after police say a prisoner's wife opened fire on his guards -- killing one of them -- and sprang him from custody, law enforcement authorities captured the couple at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night.

George and Jennifer Hyatte were arrested without incident in a room at a Best Value Inn, 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, and we're processing those."

Gwyn declined to say what, if anything, the suspects said when arrested.

John Bolen, with the U.S. Marshals Service in Columbus, said the suspects arrived at the hotel in a taxi, and authorities received a tip that they were there.

Gwyn said the wife suffered serious gunshot wounds during the escape but that the injuries didn't appear to be life-threatening.

George Hyatte is expected to appear in federal court Thursday.

Both he and his wife face first-degree murder charges in the death of the guard.

The escape happened Tuesday morning outside the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston, Tennessee. George Hyatte, 34, was being escorted under police guard when his wife Jennifer Hyatte, 31, traded gunfire with guards, killing one of them, police said. (Full story)

Earlier Wednesday evening, police in Erlanger, Kentucky, converged on a motel parking lot, searched the building and hauled away a gold van that the couple were believed to have used during their getaway.

Police said they had received a tip that the couple were in the motel. The FBI assisted in the search.

"They had just left probably minutes prior to the entry to the rooms," said Gwyn.

The motel was just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, about two miles from Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and on the Norfolk Southern railway. Security at the airport was on alert for the couple, and residents were urged to keep their eyes peeled.

Erlanger also is 217 miles from Kingston, Tennessee, where the pair was believed to have fled Tuesday morning in an SUV after the deadly shootout outside the courthouse. They later abandoned the SUV for the van, police said.

Gwyn said George Hyatte, who escaped while wearing handcuffs and leg irons, appeared to witnesses to no longer be shackled. He added that the couple were thought to be alone.

Conversations, time-lapse video

The Hyattes had been married three months. Jennifer Hyatte is a nurse with no known criminal history.

Now, in addition to the murder count, she has been charged with aiding, abetting and facilitating escape; her husband has been charged with escaping custody.

Tennessee authorities said Wednesday that George Hyatte's escape from the two armed guards had been carefully planned by the career criminal and his new bride.

"They worked diligently on this escape; they worked hard at it," said Kingston Police Chief Jim Washam.

Washam said escape vehicles had been placed in advance of the crime, and Jennifer Hyatte had brought a handgun.

The couple also had communicated by telephone and mail in recent days, Washam said, and Jennifer Hyatte had spent Monday night in a nearby hotel.

Washam said without elaborating that investigators found "some items left behind" in the hotel.

Investigators have time-lapse video of the courtroom where, moments before the escape, Jennifer Hyatte attended a proceeding on an armed-robbery charge involving her husband.

Washam said the two Morgan County Regional Corrections guards appeared to have taken all the precautions while escorting him from the courthouse: Hyatte's feet were shackled and his hands were cuffed.

Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said the guards did not wear mandatory bullet-resistant vests, however.

Roane County Sheriff David Haggard said the guards were ambushed.

"I don't think there's anything that could have been done, unless you're a mind reader and knew what those people were thinking, because it was just an ambush," said Haggard.

Family makes plea to fugitive

Haggard said that county commissioners had voted just Monday night to build a new justice center with a "sally port" -- indoor, protected areas for the delivery and pickup of prisoners.

More than a day after the escape, police were receiving 25 to 35 leads each hour, said Jennifer Johnson, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman.

Authorities also were seeking any other surveillance video from cameras in the area of the courthouse and near a restaurant where the getaway vehicle was abandoned.

"It was just a very brazen kind of 'Bonnie and Clyde'-type escape," said the TBI's Gwyn. "When people are desperate and they have nothing to lose, this is what happens."

Involved in the search were the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the TBI, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and other state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Hyattes' initial getaway vehicle was an SUV, which police later found behind a restaurant about a quarter-mile from the courthouse, said Haggard. The blue Ford Explorer had "a substantial amount of blood" on the driver's side -- presumably Jennifer Hyatte's.

That SUV was registered to and driven by Jennifer Hyatte.

Authorities believe the two then got into a late-model, gold Chevrolet Venture van with black trim. Witnesses described the vehicle as having been parked overnight near the restaurant. The van was reported stolen and belongs to a patient whom Jennifer Hyatte had cared for as a private nurse, officials said.

George Hyatte, who was serving a 35-year prison sentence in neighboring Rhea County for aggravated assault and aggravated robbery, had escaped from county jails twice before, county and state officials said.

Investigators said family members of George Hyatte had been cooperative, and no evidence has been found to indicate others were involved.

Jennifer Hyatte has family in Utah and Tennessee and they, too, have been interviewed, said Jim Moore, special agent in charge for the TBI.

Earlier Wednesday, Regina Bishop, through the news media, begged her brother to turn himself in.

"George, wherever you're at, for God's sake, please, please call, please give it up before there'll be another tragic death," Bishop said. "It's not worth it, brother, it's just not worth it. So please just call us, please ... so this can be resolved."

Michael Hyatte said his brother had "made a lot of wrong choices in his life" but is "a nice, loving, easy-going guy."

"But he's scared," Michael Hyatte said. "You know, he does different when he gets scared. When I get scared, I break down and cry. When he gets scared, he gets on the defensive, and he thinks he's got to tackle the world, you know, and that's a bad deal."

A former prison nurse, Jennifer Hyatte met her husband in prison and was fired last August for having an inappropriate relationship with him, said Tennessee Department of Corrections spokesman Darrell Alley.

She was caught smuggling food from a restaurant into the prison, and acknowledged to prison officials that it was for George Hyatte, Alley said.

They were not married at the time, and she then called herself Jennifer Forsyth, Alley said.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines