Jennifer Hyatte pleads guilty to officer’s murder

Jennifer Hyatte
Jennifer Hyatte

KINGSTON (WATE) — Jennifer Hyatte pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a corrections officer as she helped her husband escape after a hearing at the Roane County Court House in August 2005.

In a deal with the prosecution, Jennifer Hyatte also pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and facilitating the escape of her husband, George Hyatte, in the death of Officer Wayne “Cotton” Morgan.

The deal allows Hyatte to avoid the death penalty. Instead, she’ll spend the rest of her life in prison without the possibility of parole. The plea agreement also states that Jennifer Hyatte must testify against her husband if his case makes it to trial.

Hyatte did not allocute to her crime. Instead, District Attorney General Russell Johnson read a statement of facts in the case agreed upon by the defense.

Two people took the stand today to read family impact statements to Hyatte. Dean Harris, wife of corrections officer Larry Harris, asked Hyatte repeatedly if 36 hours of freedom was worth it. Hyatte sat still, choking back tears and noddding her head back and forth as if to say it wasn’t.

Officer Wayne “Cotton” Morgan’s son, Dennis Morgan, took the stand next.

“Your choices caused my sister and I to be without a father,” he said to Hyatte. “Your choices caused my mom to be without her companion.”

Hyatte herself prepared a statement to read. Her hair covered half of her face and she continued to cry as she addressed the victim’s families.

“Most of all, I want to give my deepest apologies to the families,” Hyatte said. “I just want you to know that I am truly sorry. There’s no way to make up for what I’ve done. I can’t ask you to forgive me because what I’ve done is unforgivable. I don’t deserve it.

“We just hope that she meant she was really sorry,” said Cotton Morgan’s widow, Viann, after the court proceedings had ended.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson told 6 News the plea agreement was agreed upon by the families involved.

“After a couple of days mulling it over with the extended family, they met as a group and decided that’s what they wanted to do,” said Johnson.

“We know she’s going to be locked up. But yet, daily life go on for us,” said Viann Morgan.

Her husband, George Hyatte, is scheduled to go on trial on March 25, 2008.

George Hyatte is also facing first-degree murder charges in Officer Morgan’s death.

In August, a judge ruled the jury for George Hyatte’s trial will be selected from another county.

Jennifer and George Hyatte were arrested in a Columbus, Ohio, motel about 36 hours after the shooting. Police got a call from a cab driver who took them there from the Cincinnati area.

A judge had denied a defense attorney’s motion to suppress Jennifer Hyatte’s diary titled “A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.” She left it in her Ohio jail cell.

Instead, the diary would have been used as evidence against her in trial.

Jennifer met George Hyatte in prison. She’s a former prison nurse. She begins serving her sentence immediately at the Tennesseee Women’s Correctional Facility in Nashville

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