||08-11-2005 12:28 AM
Re: TN Fugivtives caught in Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Roughly 36 hours after police say a prisoner's wife opened fire on his guards and sprang him from custody, law enforcement authorities captured the couple at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night.
They were arrested without incident in a room at a Best Value Inn, said Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Weapons were found, he added.
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.
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 Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The motel was just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, about 2 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 is believed to have fled Tuesday morning in an SUV after a deadly shootout outside a courthouse. They later abandoned the SUV for the van, police said.
Gwyn said that 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.
The Hyattes had been married three months. Jennifer Hyatte is a nurse with no known criminal history.
Now 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 custody of 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, Tennessee Police Chief Jim Washam.
Washam said escape vehicles had been placed in advance of the crime, and Jennifer Hyatte had taken 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.
"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.
He 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 Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. "When people are desperate and they have nothing to lose, this is what happens."
Police said George Hyatte is African American, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 140 pounds with black hair, brown eyes and tattoos on his upper body.
Jennifer Hyatte is white, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 142 pounds, with red hair and hazel eyes, police said.
Involved in the search are the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the TBI, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and other state and local law enforcement agencies.
Still, the possibility that the couple may be hiding nearby "is in the back of everybody's mind," one official said, and patrols of back roads around Kingston have been beefed up.
Tennessee police were alerting hospitals Wednesday to be on the lookout for a married couple who may be seeking medical attention.
The Hyattes' getaway vehicle was an SUV, which police later found behind a Subway's 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, and investigators believe that one or both of the Hyattes may be wounded, TBI agent Jim Moore said.
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 Subway's restaurant. The van was reported stolen and belongs to a patient whom Jennifer Hyatte had cared for as a private nurse, officials said.
The couple may be en route to Hendersonville, Tennessee, where George Hyatte once lived, the TBI said. Hendersonville is about 120 miles from Kingston
"We do believe, at some point, either George or Jennifer Hyatte will have to receive some medical attention," Gwyn said. "That's why we have all hospitals throughout the state on alert."
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 have 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.
Through the news media, Regina Bishop 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," and 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.