Jerry Summers: The Hyattes - Tennessee's Bonnie And Clyde

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The sensational murder case that took place in the parking lot of the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston on August 5, 2005 contains a close similarity to the famous criminal couple of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who terrorized the Central United States during 1931 – 1934. 

The Hyattes pled guilty to the murder of Tennessee Correction Officer Wayne “Cotton” Morgan and received sentences of life without parole.

Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down by a large group of Texas Rangers headed by ex-ranger Frank Hamer on May 23, 1934 on a rural road in Bienville Parrish, Louisiana.

The 2005 shooting received nationwide publicity and was referred to as the “Kingston courthouse shooting”.

At approximately 10:00 a.m.

George Hyatte pled guilty to a charge of armed robbery and was being placed in a van to be transported back to prison when his wife, Jennifer, who was a spectator, pulled a pistol and started shooting.  She fatally killed Officer Morgan and wounded Tennessee Correction Officer Larry “Porky” Harris but Jennifer was also wounded in the backside by one of the officers.

Both Jennifer and George fled the scene and were later captured at an America’s Best Value Inn motel in Columbus, Ohio.

After being transported back to Tennessee, Jennifer on September 17, 2007 entered a plea of life without parole which allowed her to escape the death penalty.

One of the conditions to her sentence was that she agreed to testify against her husband which could have led to a legal issue as to the validity of such a plea.

However, George did not fight the charges against him and also received a life without parole sentence.

Prior to being returned to Tennessee Jennifer while incarcerated in the Columbus jail started writing her life story which she titled “A Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” and had completed 34 pages before it was confiscated by jailers and was turned over to the prosecution along with some letters to family and friends.

Although initial efforts by the news media to obtain the story were unsuccessful after the couple pled guilty the document became a public record and could be disclosed.

The Knoxville News Sentinel obtained a copy released by the District Attorney’s office pursuant to a “freedom of information” request.

In April 2009 a series of articles by reporter Scott Barker of the Knoxville paper reported the contents of Jennifer’s aborted manuscript and her letter to describe her unhappy life of alcohol and drug abuse, unplanned pregnancies, sexual activities with older men, broken marriages, sexual molestation and involvement in criminal activity, although she had no record of convictions.

The bizarre writing including a description of the effect that the sale of a horse named Weaver by her aunt had on her.  She described the horse as “her best friend.”

Other disappointments included finding her intended husband in the arms of another woman the night before the wedding when she was 18 and three months pregnant.

Somehow Jennifer got a job as a licensed practical nurse at Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville but was fired because of her relationship with George which included sneaking food into the prison to him.

Nevertheless they were married in a prison service in May 2005 while he was serving a lengthy sentence.

Three months later Jennifer would shoot Officer Morgan.  She described the two days her and George were on the run prior to their capture in Columbus, Ohio as “the best of her life.”

The funeral for “Cotton” Morgan was attended by over 1000 persons including 200 uniformed officers and Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Wayne “Cotton” Morgan, a decorated Vietnam veteran was buried with full military honors. 

The route to the Morgan County Correctional Complex is now designated as 541 Wayne Cotton Morgan Drive in his memory.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)


AUDIO: Clint Powell Podcast: Former Police Chief David Roddy On Reforming And Defunding The Police

CDOT Announces Weekend Special Event Street Closures

Partnership's Kocol Receives Scott Kramer Advocate Of The Year Award


Clint Powell interviewed former Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy. Click here to listen. (click for more)

The Chattanooga Division of Transportation announces the following weekend special event street closures: Between The Bridges Arts Festival Tremont Street from River Street to the ... (click for more)

Donna Kocol, program manager of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, has been named the Scott Kramer Advocate of the Year by the Chattanooga Area Employment Consortium. The recognition ... (click for more)



Happenings

AUDIO: Clint Powell Podcast: Former Police Chief David Roddy On Reforming And Defunding The Police

Clint Powell interviewed former Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy. Click here to listen. (click for more)

CDOT Announces Weekend Special Event Street Closures

The Chattanooga Division of Transportation announces the following weekend special event street closures: Between The Bridges Arts Festival Tremont Street from River Street to the Theatre Center cul-de-sac will be closed Saturday, Oct. 16 from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. for the Between The Bridges Arts Festival. Chattanooga Football Club Home Match The following roads ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Game Ends In Chaos As Kiffin Returns To Knoxville And Narrowly Wins

The long-awaited return of Lane Kiffin to Neyland Stadium ended in chaos as many in the crowd of over 102,000 tossed hundreds of bottles and other debris onto the field, causing a 25-minute delay and injuring some fans who were hit in the head by flying objects. Tennessee still had a chance at a comeback in the final 54 seconds, but two final efforts to get into the end zone ... (click for more)

Injured Motorcyclist Rescued On Lookout Mountain Saturday Evening

An injured motorcyclist was rescued Saturday evening on Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga Fire Department Squad 20, Squad 13, And Battalion 1 Chief (Red) assisted in rescuing the driver from an embankment. (click for more)

Opinion

Don't Double The City Judge's Workload Or Cut Their Pay

Why would any City Council person want to double the work load of our wonderful city judge and cut her pay in half? The answer should be no, no, no. Ed Gravitte (click for more)

Why Mandates Are Ridiculous - And Response

Hamilton County COVID cases 62,525 Hamilton County COVID deaths 638 By my math 62525/638 = 0.012 percent 0.012 percent of people that got COVID died from it 99.988 percent survived including myself I just wanted to point out how ridiculous vaccine mandates really are and how COVID hysteria, driven by the media and federal government, is unwarranted. Vaccines reduce ... (click for more)