Prison love affair has inmate, wife on run after guard killed
KINGSTON, Tenn. – Prison nurse Jennifer Forsyth got fired last year for sneaking food to an inmate. A few months later, she got permission from the warden to marry that inmate, George Hyatte, a man with a long and violent criminal record.Now the 31-year-old woman from Utah who had never been in trouble with the law is charged with gunning down a correctional officer Tuesday in a brazen attempt to help her new husband escape.Both are now being sought in a nationwide manhunt for their role in what one law enforcement official called a “Bonnie and Clyde-style shootout.”Federal authorities found the van the couple used to escape parked outside an Econo Lodge motel in Erlanger, Ky., Wednesday. The couple had been in the motel, but were gone when a SWAT team arrived, said Rich Knighten, spokesman for the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Kentucky.Another car has been reported stolen in the area of the hotel, but officials wouldn’t immediately say if the disappearance could be linked to the couple.”You are left grappling for answers and trying to figure it out. What was she thinking?” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Wednesday.”You are left grappling for answers and trying to figure it out. What was she thinking?” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Wednesday.”I guess it is anyone’s guess,” Johnson said. “She married the guy, so you have to assume there is some sort of love connection.”Police believe Jennifer Forsyth Hyatte came to this town of 5,500 on Monday with two getaway cars – a Ford Explorer in her name that was later dumped and a gold Chevrolet van stolen from one of her home-nursing clients near Nashville.She is believed to have ambushed two guards as they were leading George Hyatte from a courthouse hearing, fatally shooting one of them – veteran Wayne “Cotton” Morgan, 56 – and then speeding away with her husband.Authorities found large amounts of blood in the abandoned vehicle and believe she was wounded.Frank Harvey, the prosecutor who secured a guilty plea from George Hyatte on Tuesday to a robbery charge and may be prosecuting him again if he is caught, said: “Well, it’s like Willie Nelson’s song, ‘Ladies love outlaws like babies love stray dogs’ … or something like that.”By Wednesday, 35 to 45 leads an hour were coming in as part of a manhunt.”We’re getting information from all kinds of places, and we’re running every lead. We’ve got state and federal agencies assisting in the manhunt,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said. “I don’t recall in my 20 years ever being in this type of escape.”Early last year, Jennifer Forsyth, 31, earned a diploma as a licensed practical nurse and got a job with a state contractor that took her into Northwest Correctional Complex to provide health care to state inmates.She was fired five months later after sneaking food into the prison for Hyatte, a 34-year-old inmate with a record of robberies and escapes stretching back more than a decade. He was transferred the next month to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.But that didn’t end the relationship.Forsyth and Hyatte applied on Nov. 30, 2004, to the chaplain at the prison for permission to marry. The two were wed May 20.George Hyatte’s escape Tuesday was at least the fifth time has gotten way from law enforcement officials. The other escapes were from local authorities in east Tennessee in 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2002.During the escape three years ago, Hyatte and another prisoner escaped from a county jail after threatening guards with a homemade knife made out of toothbrushes and a razor blade.When one guard turned over keys to the armed inmates, they then used them to beat another officer until he was unconscious. The escape ended a few days later when the two were captured in Florida.Danny Wright, head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s criminal investigation division, recalled assisting in a search for Hyatte a few years ago after he escaped from a patrol car, with another woman’s help, after a convenience store robbery. Hyatte was found the next day at a home outside town, buried under a pile of clothes.”He’s pretty good at hiding,” Wright said.Hyatte’s parents divorced when he was young, and he moved between the homes of relatives and state custody for years. He first entered the court system when he was 9 for school truancy and unruly behavior. By the time he was 17 he had already been through a treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse.After dropping out of school, he racked up charges for burglary, theft, armed robbery and striking an officer. He was acquitted of aggravated rape. A presentencing report from 1993, when Hyatte was 21, described him as a repeat offender with little work history and “a tendency toward violence.”James Polk, who previously represented Hyatte as a public defender, described him as a smooth talker.”In court he is ‘Yes sir,’ ‘no sir’ and ‘please.’ He always had this look about him of ‘Who me?’ – as if he was wrongly accused,” Polk said.The lawyer also recalled that Hyatte had a previous relationship with another nurse.”He is kind of a ladies man, too,” he said.
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