The bloody escape set off an extensive search for George and Jennifer Hyatte. Helicopters circled over this eastern Tennessee town and schools — open for student registration — were locked down.
The Ford Explorer in which the couple fled was later found abandoned with blood on the driver's side, and officers think the wife may have been wounded during the attack, Police Chief Jim Washam said. Authorities believe the pair later switched from the SUV 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 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, Corrections Department spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said.
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 the Roane County Courthouse. A woman drove up in the Ford Explorer and fired several shots from a handgun, Washam said.