Prison Guard Fired For Ties To Duo

This undated photo released by the Tennessee Department of Correction on Nov. 23, 2005, shows correction officer Randall Ridenour. Ridenour was fired Wednesday, Nov. 23, after confessing to letting a career-criminal inmate use a cell phone to talk to his wife days before their daring courthouse escape that resulted in the death of a prison guard. Inmate George Hyatte and his wife, Jennifer Hyatte, are charged with first-degree murder. (AP Photo/Tennessee Department of Correction) AP

Prison officials Wednesday fired a corrections officer who they say let an inmate use a cell phone to talk to his wife about three weeks before a courthouse escape that left another prison guard dead.

Randall Ridenour, 35, was terminated during a closed administrative hearing for violating a ban on personal relationships with inmates and for "conduct unbecoming of an employee in state service," Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said. He did not attend the hearing, she said.

Sluss said Ridenour acknowledged letting inmate George Hyatte use his cell phone to talk to his wife during a court run to Roane County on July 18. Ridenour also "admitted to placing a call to (Jennifer) Hyatte later that day to further discuss her husband," Sluss said.

Sluss wouldn't comment on whether officials are investigating if Ridenour was aware of the Hyattes' escape plans, but she said "any information that would allege a criminal act would be turned over to the district attorney for prosecution."

Police say Jennifer Hyatte, a former prison nurse who met and married her husband in prison, ambushed prison guards Wayne "Cotton" Morgan and Larry Harris on Aug. 9 as they were leading George Hyatte to a prison van after a hearing in the Roane County Courthouse.

George and Jennifer Hyatte are charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Morgan, 56; prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Jennifer Hyatte also is charged with aiding an escape, and with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at Harris.

Ridenour's hearing was at the Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex in eastern Tennessee, where he worked for seven years and where George Hyatte was housed temporarily during Roane County court appearances. George Hyatte was serving a 41-year sentence for robbery and related offenses.

State prisoners, whose calls are routinely monitored by authorities, are banned from possessing cell phones.
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