KINGSTON, Tenn. -- An inmate considered ''extremely violent" escaped yesterday after his wife fatally shot a guard who was escorting the shackled prisoner outside a courthouse, authorities said.
The bloody escape set off an extensive search for George and Jennifer Hyatte. Helicopters circled over this eastern Tennessee town, and schools, open for registration, were locked down.
The Ford Explorer in which the couple fled was found abandoned with blood on the driver's side, and officers think Jennifer Hyatte may have been wounded during the attack, Police Chief Jim Washam said. Authorities said they believe the pair switched from the sport utility vehicle to a van.
George Hyatte, serving a 35-year sentence on robbery and assault convictions, ''is extremely violent, and he has no care or concern on what he does to anyone," said a Sheriff's Department spokesman, Jeff Knight.
Jennifer Hyatte is a nurse who had been fired from her job at a prison in Tiptonville because of her relationship with George Hyatte, said Amanda Sluss, Corrections Department spokeswoman.
Washam said authorities were preparing murder charges against the couple.
''We do have leads coming in on possible whereabouts, possibly some family members that may be hiding them out. We're trying our best to coordinate those," Washam said. ''Right now, we can't say if they had any help."
The escape occurred as corrections officers were loading Hyatte and other inmates into a prison van outside Roane County Courthouse. A woman drove up in the Ford Explorer and fired several shots with a handgun, Washam said.
''Mr. Hyatte hollered, 'Shoot him!' She opened up fire on the officers, hitting one in the abdomen," Washam said.
Witness C. G. Gray said he and his wife were about 50 feet from the prisoners when they heard shots.
Wayne ''Cotton" Morgan, 56, a corrections officer who was not wearing a protective vest, died at University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, about 30 miles east, said Lisa McNeal, a hospital spokeswoman.
''The other officer did get a shot off, apparently striking one of the individuals," Washam said.
Hyatte, 34, was serving two consecutive 15-year sentences for robbery convictions and a five-year sentence on top of that for assault, state prison officials said. Several years ago, he escaped from local authorities and was a fugitive for about a day after a holdup at a market.
Hyatte was two years into the 35-year sentence at Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex. He was at the courthouse to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors over an armed robbery charge, Washam said.
Hyatte was handcuffed, wore a waist chain, and was shackled at the feet, Sluss said.