Guest: Jennifer Johnson, Sheriff David Haggard, Don Clark, Amanda Sluss,
Beth Holloway Twitty, Paul Reynolds, Joe Coffee, Cesar Menezes, Robert
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, breaking news. We're getting reports out of Tennessee where an escaped convict and his wife that they may have been spotted.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Police say they're armed and dangerous after the wife shot and killed a corrections officer at a Tennessee courthouse and took off with her convict husband who has escaped before.
And Natalee Holloway's mother fighting back after one of the suspects in her daughter's disappearance in Aruba claims that she harassed him, that Beth Holloway Twitty confronted him at his job. She joins us live.
Plus the heist of the century. Thieves spend months digging a tunnel under a road and into a bank. They make off with nearly $70 million.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First on the docket tonight, breaking news in the manhunt for a prison escapee and his wife on the run after allegedly killing a prison guard yesterday then fleeing from the courthouse. A short time ago, SWAT teams and sheriffs with search dogs acting on a tip searched a mountainous area in Bakewell, Tennessee, about 60 miles southeast of where George and Jennifer Hyatte were last seen.
Now, The Associated Press is reporting that the sheriff in that county says authorities know where the couple is. Remember, George and Jennifer Hyatte met while she was a prison nurse. He was an inmate. The authorities warned they should be considered extremely dangerous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK MOORE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: These people are dangerous. They're very dangerous. They killed somebody. And you know and take that into consideration. Don't approach them. If you see them, call 911.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: After shooting and killing correction officer Wayne Morgan outside a Kingston, Tennessee courthouse, the two apparently took off. George Hyatte in prison guard shackles, his wife at the wheel of her SUV. The car was found abandoned a short time later, blood on the driver's side, which could indicate Jennifer Hyatte was injured, hit when officers returned gunfire.
Authorities say they're running down 25 to 35 leads every hour. They think the couple could be in a gold 2000 Chevrolet Venture van with Tennessee plates, GFU155.
Earlier today George Hyatte's brother, Michael, pleaded with the escapee to turn himself in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HYATTE, BROTHER OF PRISON ESCAPEE: If you need me to come get you and bring you back, I will. You know I talked with TBI yesterday and they assured me that you know you would not be hurt in any way. So George, enough is enough. You know, you got one man, you know, dead needlessly and one or two of you are hurt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Jennifer Johnson with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the agency that is heading up the manhunt. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. We appreciate it. All right...
JENNIFER JOHNSON, TN BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Let's deal with this issue right at the outset. Hamilton County sheriff, John Cupp, said late this afternoon to The Associated Press that the authorities know where George Hyatte is. Is that true?
JOHNSON: We're not going to get into confirming or denying reports from a sheriff's department in Chattanooga, Tennessee or in Hamilton County. All information that we have given out has been consistent throughout the afternoon that we are running down 25 to 30 leads per hour. We continue to do that. I just would really hate to start getting into confirming or denying rumors and information put out by other agencies.
ABRAMS: Fair enough. The only reason I asked you was because you're quoted in AP saying that a statement by the sheriff was irresponsible.
JOHNSON: I think that was irresponsible. I think that really any information should come out of here. That's why we have all assembled here for days and days. We're here 24 hours a day. You know, I shudder to think what hour we're on now. There's a reason why we're all out here and why we're trying to get the information out in the most expedient way possible. Rumor control has been an incredible problem all day long.
ABRAMS: All right, so let's get down to business here. There have been searches, have there not, in a mountainous area about 60 miles away from where they escaped?
JOHNSON: To be honest with you, we are working so many different areas that I have not kept a running log of that. I'm sure that if people have seen agents out there that they are out there in force. Again, it's very hard when you have hundreds and hundreds of different activities going on to actually you know manage those. The other issue is that some of them are constantly coming off the list. So I apologize. We have been searching in many different areas, and I would guess that's probably one of them.
ABRAMS: This is a family. This is a husband and a wife. I guess theoretically they got married while he was in prison, so I don't know what kind of family that creates, but have the families of both the suspects been cooperative?
JOHNSON: The families have worked with authorities. We have questioned many friends, many family members. You have seen—obviously you ran a piece of an interview. They have been very forthcoming to the media. We appreciate their willingness really to beg him so to speak out of hiding.
ABRAMS: OK, let me just read you this. I want to read you this from our assistant news director at...
ABRAMS: ... one of our local affiliates, WLWT. This is literally just coming to me. Saying that the police have confirmed that the van that the couple used in Tennessee is at a motel and that the couple apparently stayed there for the night. Can you confirm at all that at least you have located a motel where they may have spent the night?
JOHNSON: Well, I have been standing here for roughly 30 minutes. I have not been back to the command post. I don't know of anything of that nature. But I will have to go back and check on it.
ABRAMS: Fair enough...
JOHNSON: ... you're getting information on the air and you know...
ABRAMS: And I apologize for putting you on the spot like that...
JOHNSON: No, that's all right.
ABRAMS: And I should say that's in Kentucky. What we're talking about is a motel in Kentucky where they believe they may have found the van that the couple used, but again we're going to wait on that. Finally, I assume you're getting a lot of tips on this, correct?
JOHNSON: We are. I mean I know that it sounds pass’ but we are being literally bombarded with various tips. You know we've had simultaneous sightings in different states and that's why we're trying not to just throw things out there and to be responsible about this. I mean people's lives really hang in the balance where this case is concerned. We have two people that we fully believe would commit murder again if they had to.
JOHNSON: And so we have to be very careful with the information that we give out that we're protecting lives as well as also giving out information.
ABRAMS: Well I appreciate you putting some of this into perspective...
JOHNSON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: You can understand, we're getting reports from a sheriff's department...
JOHNSON: I do.
ABRAMS: ... that we have to ask about it. Thanks so much. We are now looking at chopper shots of that hotel, that motel we were just talking about in Kentucky. These are just into us at this moment, chopper shots of the motel where our local affiliate, at least the assistant news director there is saying that the police have confirmed that a van used by the couple in Tennessee is there at the motel.
It appears that the couple spent the night there. Now, it seems that they're no longer at the building, but this could be a major, major development if this in fact pans out. But again, those are the shots you're seeing. You're certainly seeing a lot of police activity there. And again WLWT, the assistant news director there telling us that the police have confirmed that the van used by the couple in Tennessee is at the motel and that the couple apparently stayed the night there.
This could mean they are literally on their heels. We are going to stay on top of this. We're expecting to get information even during this program.
All right. Joining me now, the Roane County sheriff, David Haggard, who is working along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to crack this case. Sheriff, thanks a lot. I appreciate it. First, let me ask you, do you have any updated news with regard to what we have been talking about?
SHERIFF DAVID HAGGARD, ROANE COUNTY, TN: No, sir, I don't. We'd had a report earlier from Chattanooga, Tennessee that a couple had been spotted that fit the description and fled from the sheriff's department down there, the sheriff's officers, and I understand at this time there's a team—a SWAT team in the woods somewhere in Chattanooga looking for these people.
ABRAMS: All right. Fair enough. Let me...
ABRAMS: ... let me ask you to take us back.
HAGGARD: We don't know...
ABRAMS: Sorry. Go ahead.
HAGGARD: Say again.
ABRAMS: I was saying—I'm sorry. I apologize for interrupting you. Go ahead.
HAGGARD: We don't know that it is the two we're looking for. But the report was they fit—the people that are being pursued...
HAGGARD: ... fit the description and they're being actively pursued at this time.
ABRAMS: All right. Fair enough. But again we are looking at chopper shots from a motel in Kentucky, where the assistant news director there has confirmed to us police say that they have found a van that the couple used in Tennessee.
Bring us back. Tell us exactly—now that you have had 24 hours to investigate, to talk to your folks, tell us exactly what you think happened at that courthouse now.
HAGGARD: Well it's very obvious that there was a plan for the escape. And this man's life was an intricate part of that plan. And as they come out of the courthouse and back into the parking lot trying to take the prisoner back to the prison, he directed his wife to open fire on the two prison guards and that's exactly what she did.
ABRAMS: Some have been questioning—considering how much of a security risk this man had been. He tried to escape before. You all had him as a result in shackles, leg restraints, et cetera, whether two officers were enough coming out of the front of the courthouse. What is your response to that?
HAGGARD: Well, the way the man was restrained, two officers would have been sufficient to handle him and transport him. But again I'd like to say that these officers are employees of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, not my employees, and they were acting under their policy and procedures and guidelines and I can't speak for the Department of Corrections.
ABRAMS: All right, Sheriff thanks a lot. I want you to get back to work there. I know we're probably taking up your time here as this is all going on. So thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: All right. As you heard, the authorities think this was a planned escape. We are looking at live pictures—not live pictures—are these live pictures? Yes. All right. These are live pictures from a Kentucky motel where our local affiliate is telling us the van that was used by the fugitives to escape has been found. They believe that they spent the night at that motel. But it is unclear whether they are still there.
That is a gold van, as you can see right there. I'm not sure if that is the gold van, but it sure looks like a 2000 -- I mean I can't tell from here, but—so why don't we just wait and determine whether that's the one, although you can see the tow truck coming up right behind it.
Don Clark, a former FBI man joins us. A good friend of this program. All right, Don, I assume you're able to see some of these photos. We're looking there at a gold van that really—let's assume for a minute that is the gold van that the suspects used. That means they're on their heels, doesn't it?
DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT (via phone): Yes, it does, Dan. It clearly means that they are on their heels. And it does—and it also could mean that they could be very close in the area. I haven't heard anybody yet confirm that they have seen any bodies but the information that was earlier on is that it's possible that perhaps a lady may have been shot. So it would mean that either they were picked up by somebody else from there or they hitched a ride with somebody who was friendly to them or they may still be hiding in that area.
ABRAMS: We are continuing our breaking news coverage of what seems to be the discovery of the van used by an escaped prison convict and his wife, a former prison nurse who helped him escape, allegedly shooting a corrections officer, killing him. There's been an all-out manhunt for the last 24 hours plus, and you are looking at what may have been the vehicle that was used to escape. This is in nearby Kentucky, not in Tennessee, but the authorities telling our local affiliate there that the couple likely spent the night at the motel you're looking at.
Don Clark, a lot of evidence could be found in that van, true?
CLARK: Well, a lot of evidence is going to be found in that van if in fact it's the van, Dan, and also if in fact they did spend the night in that hotel, a significant amount of evidence could be found in that hotel. But the key is going to be is that, if they left and the van is still there, then that's when the law enforcement has really got to get on its best game because how did they leave and was there another vehicle waiting for them there.
ABRAMS: Let me just read you what we have, the latest from WLWT. They have learned that a van used by an escaped Tennessee prison inmate and his wife has been found at a local hotel. SWAT teams surrounded the hotel in Erlanger, Kentucky, after investigators found the van, the gold van spotted Wednesday at an Econo Lodge, although that looks like a different hotel.
But anyway, according to a U.S. marshal, the couple had been staying at the hotel, but have not been found. Authors said Wednesday Jennifer Hyatte shot and killed the corrections officer who was escorting her shackled and handcuffed husband, George.
All right, let's take a break here. We are continuing to monitor these breaking news developments out of Kentucky. We'll come back in a moment.
ABRAMS: These are photos from only a few moments ago of a hotel, a motel, in Kentucky, an Econo Lodge motel, where the authorities believe they have found a gold van that was used by a husband and wife team. The husband was in prison, came to court for a hearing. His wife allegedly shoots a corrections officer as they are leaving the courthouse in an effort to free her husband. They are on the run.
There's been an all out manhunt and it seems that now the authorities have found the van that they used to escape. Now initially she was in a Ford Explorer. That was later dumped for a gold Chevrolet van, apparently stolen from one of her nursing home clients. Remember the woman is a nurse -- a former prison nurse. That's how she met the man involved here.
And it seems that they spent the night there according to the authorities.
But they have not been seen for a few hours and so the search continues.
Now as you heard, the authorities think this was a planned escape.
Joining me now is Amanda Sluss, from the Tennessee Department of Corrections who has been following this, also knows about the contact the two suspects have had since he was in prison. First let me just ask you at the outset, do you have any other information to add to what I just said?
AMANDA SLUSS, TN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: I believe that you've cleared up the newest information I have been hearing and confirming what Jennifer Johnson with the TBI was able to share as well. That's news to me.
ABRAMS: OK. Tell me about how these two met. They literally met while he was an inmate and she was a nurse at that prison?
SLUSS: It's my understanding that during her brief employment, approximately five months in length, at one of our facilities over in northwest Tennessee that there was an overlap as far as his incarceration. He was serving some time there and she was working there. She was dismissed in August of 2004 because she was violating a Department of Correction policy by bringing food in to this inmate and admitted it was for him and therefore the group that she worked—it's called the Northwest Community Services Agency—did dismiss her for that.
ABRAMS: And they were later married, correct?
SLUSS: Yes, they were married in May of this year at one of our prisons in Nashville. That's correct.
ABRAMS: When is the last—now he had restricted visitation, did he not? Meaning, he wasn't allowed to have the normal visitation that a prisoner has.
SLUSS: I don't understand that he had—it's not my understanding, I'm sorry, that he had any type of restrictive visitation. But let me stress that just because a former employee is permitted to marry an inmate does not give them any type of better rights as far as obtaining visitation with the inmate. She was not approved to have visitation, therefore she was never permitted to enter the facility on an official visit.
ABRAMS: So in theory how could they have planned this together.
SLUSS: I think as far as their communication that would have been left to correspondence via mail and also telephone, if she was included on his phone list. At this point in time I don't have any information that she was an approved number on his calling list.
ABRAMS: You are looking at live photos coming to us from our local affiliate where it appears a van has been found used by an escaped convict and his wife who allegedly helped him escape by shooting a corrections officer. That corrections officer died. There has been an all out manhunt.
The authorities telling us that the couple likely spent the night at that motel, but they have not been seen for the last few hours and so the manhunt is on. All right, Amanda Sluss, thank you so much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
Here's what we're going to do. We are going to keep monitoring these photos. We are going to be working the phones, trying to get any new information we can bring to you about this.
In the meantime, let's go to Aruba. It's getting ugly. Natalee Holloway's mother is fighting back. One of the suspects in Natalee's disappearance, Deepak Kalpoe, filed a complaint against Beth Holloway Twitty after she confronted him at work on Monday. She said she just wanted to know if he's got any information and wanted to talk to her. He said she effectively stalked him.
Joining me now in Aruba is Natalee's mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, and in Houston Natalee's uncle, Paul Reynolds. Thank you both for coming back on the program.
All right, Beth, what do you make of this, of Deepak's latest claims that you know calling the police effectively saying you were stalking him?
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: You know what I'm thinking as you're saying that, this really ought to be the least of Deepak's concern right now. He should be a lot more concerned about his involvement with Natalee, whether than when Natalee's mother shows up at the Internet cafe.
ABRAMS: Have you been instructed not to go back?
TWITTY: You know, I have been advised of some things. You know I'm not choosing to go back to the Internet cafe right now. You know I think that I got—I must have hit pretty close to home with him. I think it caused such a reaction, it kind of really makes me suspicious, just how much does he know. If he is this frightened of me coming in there in the Internet cafe for an hour and a half.
ABRAMS: How did you learn of Deepak's complaint against you?
TWITTY: Well, I think that a bailiff from the court was trying to reach me from what a friend of mine that is staying here with me on the island said. And you know I'm just not in the room at all during the day and also I spoke with my attorney, Benvinda De Sousa and also Peter Mohamed, and we're making me aware of this.
ABRAMS: When you were talking to him, I mean look, you were pretty straight with us when you were on the show right after you had spoken to him and you said, look, you know I confronted him. I asked him the tough questions. I effectively put him on the spot. Did you go beyond that? I mean what do you think it was that you did or said that really either scared him or angered him or anything else?
TWITTY: I think that I was so close to the truth that it just really got to him. And you know, if he could defend himself or if he had no knowledge, he would have done it. There's no male that would have stood there and let me ask those questions without defending himself if he had no involvement whatsoever, you know advice of his attorney or not. I mean I don't think attorneys go to jail with us, but you know I certainly would have taken every opportunity to clear my name in front of Natalee's mother. It would have been a perfect opportunity for him to do that.
ABRAMS: Did you yell at him?
TWITTY: Oh, absolutely not. And there were other customers in the Internet cafe and I was very discreet. I even refrained from speaking for at least 10 or 15 minutes because I wanted to make certain that I was in control and I was not going to cause attention to myself or to Deepak at his place of employment.
ABRAMS: Paul, do you think in retrospect that Beth did the right thing by confronting him?
PAUL REYNOLDS, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S UNCLE: I think she did. You know I had been in there the week before and I wanted to see him. I wanted to come face-to-face with him. And this is what Beth wanted to do. You know this is the—this is one of the individuals that she identified the day her daughter was missing. She went down there, was able to find out what his name was, where he lived.
This is the same individual that was making up lies about where he was and,
you know, still lying about where he was. And this is the individual that
· the suspect remaining in custody says you know that brought great harm to her daughter. So you know, it's not hard for me to understand at all why she would want to go face him. What I don't understand is why he is not being held, why he is not in jail, why he is not in prison with Joran.
ABRAMS: Beth, you get any updates on the investigation from the authorities?
TWITTY: Well I've met with Ms. De Sousa this afternoon and you know, as far as updates, you know it's pretty tight-lipped from any information they can get and you know I just have to hope. You know I've never stated that they were on the right track. I feel like they are on the right track to pursue Deepak and Satish and Joran van der Sloot and Paul van der Sloot. And you know I just hope that they stay on that track. That that's where the answers are, and they need to continue pursuing them.
ABRAMS: Beth Holloway Twitty, thanks for coming back on the program once again. We appreciate it. Paul Reynolds, as always we appreciate you joining us as well.
All right, let me again bring you up-to-date. We are looking at live pictures. This is a van that the authorities believe was used by a husband and wife team after the wife allegedly shot a corrections officer to help her husband, who was serving a 35-year sentence, escape. This is man who has escaped before.
He is someone who was in cuffs and shackles and chains. There were two corrections officers guarding him as he was being transported from a courthouse. The authorities believe his wife, a former prison nurse, shot the corrections officer, that he got into a different car, that she was bleeding, they believe, in the car, so she may have been hit by gunfire, that that van is the van they used to leave Tennessee.
They went to Kentucky. Authorities believe they spent the night at that motel, but they are still on the loose. We are following that story.
We're going to take a break. Back in a minute.
ABRAMS: We have just gotten in brand new tape from a U.S. marshal on the scene in Kentucky, where they may have found the car used by an escaped convict and his wife who shot a corrections officer. We've got breaking news coming up.
ABRAMS: You are looking at live pictures of what may have been a getaway car used by an escaped convict and his wife. The wife allegedly shot a corrections officer as the convict was being transported out of a courthouse to head back to prison. They escaped together in a separate car. This car allegedly stolen by the woman, a former prison nurse now working at a nursing home, from one of her patients.
That's the car that was found in Kentucky. And the authorities there believe that the couple spent the night at this motel. This could mean they are on the heels of this dangerous duo. I want to play you a little piece of tape from a U.S. marshal who is at the scene, who was interviewed only moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had information that possibly the suspects were. When we made entry into the room, we had negative contact. We didn't find anyone there but we have reason to believe that they were there.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you tell us why you believe they were there?
Were there weapons? What did you find?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't -- I really can't comment on it at this time. We haven't found any weapons. But the room looked like it had been recently occupied. The beds were turned down, things of that nature, and we also recovered a vehicle (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the room.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Talk to us a little bit about that vehicle. Where was it? Was it parked right outside of that room, 111?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really comment on exactly where the vehicle was. But we're processing the vehicle and we do have it in our custody.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it in the lot still?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not found any blood, but we are still looking for blood.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the van still in the lobby?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really can't comment on where the van is right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you talk to us, of course everybody—the Speedway is open for business, this restaurant is open for business, and when you hear about these people, they have been called violent, armed, dangerous, what about for people that live in this area, people that are shopping here, is there a concern that these people are still here and that safety is an issue?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, safety is always an issue. We would urge the public to use a common sense approach but we have no reason to believe they're in the immediate vicinity. It has been almost three or four hours since we know of anyone that's even—might have seen them.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. So you think—do you have any idea—what is leading you to believe that they aren't going to come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well normally the pattern is that they wouldn't come back here. But of course we don't know and I really can't speculate on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. Was there a trail or anything that you saw that maybe they took off, maybe another stolen vehicle that they...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're investigating all leads, stolen vehicles, the airport, things of that nature, and it's going to take us a few days to put everything together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, that is from literally minutes ago. We want to go back to our live helicopter photos of the scene there in Erlanger, Kentucky, which is about 275 miles north of where the escape took place. They have been doing a little bit of driving since the last time they were seen. You see there that gold Chevrolet van that we had been talking about that had been discussed many times, that had been described in an effort to find it. It seems that they have found it.
They have seemingly found the room where the couple spent the night. Joe Coffee, former—formerly with the NYPD joins us now. All right, so Joe, it sure seems that this is a major lead and that they—I don't want to say that they're on their heels, but they're getting close.
JOE COFFEE, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE DETECTIVE (via phone): Oh obviously they're getting close. But the danger here is, this has the potential of being an eventual hostage situation. When they finally get cornered and, say they get cornered in another motel or something like that, they could possibly take civilian hostages, which would make it very dangerous.
The advice of the public would be, if you spot these people and they're kind of easy to spot because you have a black man and a white woman in Tennessee, Kentucky down there, they're going to report it to local law enforcement. Do not attempt to approach these people.
ABRAMS: The room and the van will certainly have a lot of evidence. But is it relevant evidence in the context of finding them, you think?
COFFEE: Well, it will be evidence when this case gets to court...
COFFEE: ... part of it, in the hotel room and also the evidence found in this van. But right now it's not going to give them any leads as to where these people are. But obviously, they stole another car, so the stolen car reports would have to be checked immediately, which I'm sure they're doing. And they're going from state to state. And that will bring the federal government into the it.
ABRAMS: Are you surprised that the van that had been out there on all the news stations, with its license plate being announced was just sitting at an Econo Lodge in Kentucky?
COFFEE: Well I'm not surprised because it's summertime, people are on vacation. They're not paying attention to news. It's possible that nobody spotted it. Obviously they didn't.
ABRAMS: No, but I meant that are you surprised that the suspects—remember she was a prison nurse, right...
COFFEE: That's correct.
ABRAMS: ... and he is a long time escape—he has escaped before. He has made numerous attempts to escape in addition to the successful escapes. She is someone who had worked in the prison system. I guess the question I'm asking is are you surprised that that van was so out in the open.
COFFEE: Meaning that they're out in the open, is that what you're talking about?
COFFEE: Yes. I'm absolutely—that is surprising, but they have to stay on the move here or they're going to get captured immediately. But by staying on the move they stay one step ahead of law enforcement for the time being. But as I started out saying this has all of the potential of being an eventual hostage situation, which is extremely dangerous.
ABRAMS: Joe, we're now talking about a national search, are we not? I mean we now know that they've crossed state—at least one state line. They've gone from Tennessee to Kentucky and you know I would assume that there are no—look, they're on the border of Indiana there and apparently very close to Cincinnati. There's no state lines' issues here, right?
COFFEE: Not at all. In fact by going from Tennessee to Kentucky, as I said earlier, it brings the federal government into it and these people are on the run. They're desperate. They're dangerous. It's going to be a problem and it's going to be a major problem down the road and law enforcement is going to be in a position where they're probably going to even (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hostage situation, which is extremely dangerous.
ABRAMS: All right, here's what we know. We know that the couple, George and Jennifer Hyatte, apparently checked into room 111 at the Econo Lodge in Erlanger, Kentucky. It's about 275 miles north of where she allegedly shot a corrections officer in an effort to free her husband who was going to be serving upwards of 35 years.
He was in shackles. He was in chains because he was considered a flight risk. The couple apparently seen sometime Wednesday afternoon. Police got a tip around 4:00 and entered the room and it seems that the couple had left and you heard the marshal there who was being interviewed saying that it had been at least a few hours. They say they don't know if the couple is in the area, where they may be headed. The search is on.
Take a break. Joe Coffee, thanks very much. Our continuing coverage in a moment.
ABRAMS: Authorities may be very close to finding a husband and wife team. The husband, an escaped convict. The wife helped him escape by shooting a corrections officer. They have apparently found their van. We are continuing on this breaking story in a moment.
ABRAMS: You are looking at a live picture of what the authorities say is the van that was used by a convict who had been convicted of aggravated assault, among other things, serving 35 years, who escaped during a courthouse appearance when his wife allegedly shot a corrections officer and whisked him away in another car. That car, right there, is apparently a car from a patient of the nursing home where the wife works. She is a nurse.
They met when she was a prison nurse at the prison where George Hyatte had been spending his time. They are now married and the authorities are on the hunt for these two. They considered them armed and dangerous, in particular, because of what happened. Remember, this is a woman who allegedly killed a corrections officer already. And they believe that they found the hotel—motel where they spent the night and that's where they discovered that van.
Now, they still do not know where George and Jennifer Hyatte are. That's their—those are their pictures. That's the phone number if you've got any information. We are continuing to watch this story. We are going to bring you any information as soon as we get it.
In the meantime, another story—this one sounds like the plot of a summer blockbuster movie. A group of bank robbers rent a house near a large bank, pretending to be landscapers. They spend three months constructing a tunnel underneath the city block across a busy street and into the bank's vault, which has a 3.6 foot steel-reinforced, concrete floor. Well this weekend bank robbers walked out of a major bank in northern Brazil with $67.8 million, one of the largest in the history of bank robberies anywhere ever.
It all went on underground where the bank's cameras didn't catch it. The thieves tunneled 262 feet lining their route with wooden panels, plastic sheeting, and electric lighting. Police believe the men may have been behind a similar heist back in October where a tunnel was used to steal $1 million from a company that transported money to banks. The lead suspect is believed to be a convicted bank robber who escaped from prison by tunneling his way out.
Joining me now is Globo TV national correspondent Cesar Menezes. Thank you very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, so tell me a little bit...
ABRAMS: ... about this as compared to the other robbery where a tunnel was used and why the authorities believe these two may be linked.
CESAR MENEZES, GLOBO TV NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way they dig the tunnel are similar. The first one was not as sophisticated as this one, the one in the bank—excuse me—it's coming back to me. The one in the bank—the last one in the bank was very, very sophisticated. As you said, it took them three months to execute the plan. We don't know how long it took them to plan.
But first of all, they rented the house. They registered an enterprise; it was grass-selling thing—so that they could dig the tunnel and take the sand out without making any of the neighbors suspicious. They did that for three months approximately. And afterwards, they decided very, very precisely when to break into the vault. It was on a Friday night to Saturday morning. They had therefore two days to make this burglary.
ABRAMS: And is it true that the money was uninsured?
MENEZES: Well, the police has not confirmed this yet. But they have confirmed other information, which is very, very important. The building of central bank in Ceara, the state we are in, is under construction. The relation between this construction—it's been reformed—the relation between this reforming and the crime has not been made precisely. The police cannot say...
MENEZES: ... that one of the workers was—were involved.
MENEZES: But when the first police agent got there—that was Monday morning—they found some equipment lying precisely in the front of one of the secure cameras, and this vault, it's a very big vault. It has, the police said, three cameras. And each one facing, each one pointed to one direction. And this equipment, which was of course misplaced...
ABRAMS: All right.
MENEZES: ... was right in front of the camera that faced the part of the vault, which the—in which the hole...
MENEZES: ... was made and the money...
ABRAMS: I'm sorry...
MENEZES: ... was taken off.
ABRAMS: I'm sorry to interrupt you. I just—I'm almost out of time. And Robert McCrie, I've got to bring you in, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Bottom line, you ever seen a bank robbery like this where they are able to tunnel under and into reinforced steel concrete 3.6 feet deep?
ROBERT MCCRIE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Yes, we've seen other bank robberies that involved tunneling but not recently. The last major one of this type was about 25 years ago. And the reason why they haven't occurred more frequently recently is because of the improvement in alarm systems. So that's one big factor.
ABRAMS: What about the flooring, though? I mean the fact that they were able to get through 3.6 foot of steel and concrete floors?
MCCRIE: That's no challenge for construction equipment. These people knew how to get through reinforced concrete. They did very successfully. They were prepared to do it and they succeeded.
ABRAMS: And very quickly, how do banks prevent this from happening in the future?
MCCRIE: They prevent it by having a whole menu of alarms, some of which the bank employees themselves are unaware of. And they have backup so that this isn't possible. They also vet their employees, that is to say check backgrounds very carefully because there's likely to be insider assistance with this. And that includes vendors who may be working in construction.
ABRAMS: All right, Cesar Menezes and Robert McCrie, I apologize. I wanted to spend more time on this, but with all of this breaking news going on in this manhunt I'm going to have to cut it short. Cesar understands that. He's on—does TV for a living. So thank you both very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, back to the story we're covering. We're going to go live to the motel in Kentucky where police have found a van belonging to those two fugitives, an escaped convict and his wife who are on the loose. We'll have a live report, coming up.
ABRAMS: Let's go live to the motel in Kentucky. Police have found a van belonging to a husband and wife on the run after she allegedly helped him escape from prison, shooting a corrections officer.
Joining me now, WLWT-TV reporter Sheree Paolello in Erlanger, Kentucky.
Sherry, what's the latest?
SHEREE PAOLELLO, WLWT-TV REPORTER: Well Dan, this is in northern Kentucky, just about 15 minutes outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. The two and their van were spotted at this Econo Lodge here around 4:30, a tip came into police that the two had been seen here. Police then about an hour later, snipers out here. Police, of course, federal agents surrounding the hotel, busted in to room number 111. And once inside, unfortunately, they didn't find the two, George and Jennifer Hyatte, but they did find blood inside.
In the back of the Econo Lodge here also was that van, the gold van with the black stripe that authorities nationwide have been looking for. The van unfortunately, though, empty as well. So the pair still on the run tonight. Police now in the process of just collecting evidence out here. Again, blood was found inside the hotel room. There were reports that possibly Jennifer had been shot and that she may be bleeding.
And blood was found inside that hotel room. Right now, also, that van is being taken away and of course, police are going to look through it to see if there is any evidence inside there. But all of this now unfolding here in northern Kentucky. The two police have been looking for at least were making—had made a stop here in northern Kentucky—Dan.
ABRAMS: All right, Sheree Paolello, thanks a lot for coming on.
Appreciate it. We'll be right back.
ABRAMS: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations has just informed us that they believe that a fugitive couple who had been driving that van left a hotel room only minutes before the police arrived and as a result, they may be very close in that neighborhood. MSNBC will have full coverage throughout the night—there's the pictures.
Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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