Video: Fugitive couple fights extradition

updated 8/12/2005 5:46:53 PM ET 2005-08-12T21:46:53

The couple accused of killing a Tennessee corrections officer in a daring escape objected Friday to being sent back to the state to face charges. At a hearing, the wife appeared dazed, and the husband declared, "I don't want to leave without her."

George and Jennifer Hyatte were arrested Wednesday night without a struggle at the America's Best Value Inn in Columbus after a cabbie tipped off authorities that he had driven them there. The tip ended a manhunt that began Tuesday with the shooting outside a courthouse in Kingston, Tenn.

In the brief hearing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, George Hyatte seemingly was prepared to waive his right to challenge extradition and return to Tennessee. When his lawyer leaned in and explained that Jennifer Hyatte had decided to fight extradition, he sighed deeply and argued briefly with his lawyer.

"I don't want to leave without her," said Hyatte, who had on two sets of handcuffs chained tightly to his waist. "I don't want to. I don't want to."

Potential death penalty
His wife appeared moments earlier. Jennifer Hyatte did not talk during the hearing. She showed almost no emotion until the judge informed her that the charge carries a possible death penalty. She then sighed and leaned back in her chair.

Another hearing has been set for Sept. 8. The couple can be held in Ohio for up to 90 days.

Jennifer Hyatte, 31, a licensed nurse with no criminal record, is accused of ambushing two prison guards Tuesday as they were leading her husband — a convicted robber — from the Kingston courthouse, fatally shooting guard Wayne "Cotton" Morgan before the couple sped away.

The 34-year-old inmate, who had a history of escaping from custody, had just pleaded guilty to a robbery, adding six years to the 35-year sentence he was already serving.

Although Morgan was fatally wounded, corrections officer Larry "Porky" Harris returned fire in a two-minute gun battle later described by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn as a "'Bonnie and Clyde'-style shootout."

Couple drove 275 miles in stolen car
The pair then jumped into Jennifer Hyatte's SUV and fled. Authorities said the vehicle was found a half-mile away at a sandwich shop later that morning. Blood inside suggested the driver had been wounded.

Authorities quickly began searching for a gold van that had been parked at the shop overnight. The van had been stolen from one of Jennifer Hyatte's home-health care clients in suburban Nashville.

On Wednesday afternoon, SWAT teams found the gold van at a motel in Erlanger, Ky., near Cincinnati, about 275 miles away. But the couple had already left for Columbus in a cab.

Cab driver Mike Wagers said the Hyattes gave him two $100 bills for the $185 fare. He said he didn't recognize the pair or notice a leg wound police said Jennifer Hyatte suffered in the shootings.

Taxi driver didn't believe fugitives worked for Amway
Wagers did become suspicious, though, when they told him they were headed to an Amway convention. Their sales pitch didn't seem nearly aggressive enough, he said.

"Amway people are all about Amway, and when they didn't try any conversation further about it, that's when I pretty much thought, ‘Well, they're not with Amway; they're doing something else,’” he said.

After arriving in Columbus, Jennifer Hyatte, who by now had colored her dark blond hair black, and her husband checked into a Best Value Inn for a three-night stay.

Alerted by a friend, the cab driver eventually made the connection to the shootings and called authorities. Officers surrounded the couple's room, and the pair surrendered peacefully.

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