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Hyatte wanted children to be with ex-husband

Reports of crimes leave family, friends stunned, disbelieving

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About six weeks ago, Jennifer Forsyth Hyatte was in Utah for a custody hearing about her three children, ages 9, 11 and 12.

"Evidently, she said: 'My life isn't stable right now; I want you to keep the kids,' " said Suzanne Marychild, attorney for Hyatte's ex-husband, Eli Gourdin, of Smithfield, Cache County.

Marychild said Hyatte had asked Gourdin to keep the children for the summer and the following school year.

Jennifer Hyatte, 31, and George Hyatte, 34, have been called the modern-day Bonnie and Clyde for allegedly planning an ambush to release George Hyatte, a convicted robber, from Tennessee state custody. Jennifer is accused of fatally shooting a guard Tuesday as her husband was being led from a hearing. During the commotion, the two fled and were eventually captured in Ohio after a cabdriver tipped off authorities.

Standing in front of her West Jordan home Thursday night, Sally Lambson, Jennifer Hyatte's mother, said she believes her daughter has been brainwashed by George Hyatte, whom she met and married when he was in prison.

"We realize that what she has allegedly done is terrible, but we feel the horrible man she got involved with is truly to blame for this whole situation," Lambson said, reading from a statement while surrounded by her family. "We also feel that he had her brainwashed from the first time they met. Without him, this never would have happened."

Jennifer's fault was her "gullibility with men," said her mother's written statement. She was often subservient to men and "when told to do something, she just did it without thinking about the consequences," the statement said.

The eldest of Lambson's two daughters, Jennifer was a "good" kid who never got in trouble, her mother told the Associated Press.

In front of his Smithfield home, Gourdin told the Deseret Morning News Wednesday that he met Jennifer, whose maiden name is Forsyth, while the two attended West Jordan High School in the early '90s. Jennifer Forsyth married Gourdin in the fall of 1992. They divorced in 2000.

Gourdin said he regularly talked to Jennifer Hyatte and even spoke to her on Monday, the day before the shooting.

At the time of the shooting, the children were with Gourdin and his wife, Katie, for the summer.

Tuesday night, Marychild notified the Office of Recovery Services and received a custody order for the children. A child protective order was also filed in district court. Because George Hyatte has previously escaped from authorities, Marychild said, Gourdin was concerned George Hyatte would come to Utah. "He (Gourdin) was really terrified with the kids."

Marychild has represented Gourdin for two years. She met Jennifer Hyatte in June.

"She seemed quiet. She wasn't entirely easy to negotiate with. She was trying to get visitation for dad and facilitate that. I didn't sense she had any violence in her."

Gourdin came to Marychild with the news of the shooting Tuesday.

"It was really dramatic. He was obviously hit very hard and grieving that someone he could know and love could change so radically. The woman who had mothered his children was a different person in the news."

After he learned of his ex-wife's capture, Gourdin told his children Wednesday night the recent circumstances surrounding their mother. Marychild talked to Gourdin Thursday and said the family was "doing pretty well."

"They got to spend some time with some of her (Jennifer's) extended family, and I think that was very healing for everybody," she said.

Although Gourdin had the children at his Smithfield home, Marychild said he was still paying child support to his ex-wife. Court records indicate child support was set at $480 a month.

"He is a nice guy," Marychild said. "And I think because of the children, he was one of those rare individuals who could put everything aside and put the best interest of the children first. That's something I don't often see."

Little is known publicly about Jennifer Hyatte, the former Utahn who has lived in Taylorsville, Salt Lake City and West Jordan and who was a nursing assistant.

Pictured in Taylorsville High School's 1990 yearbook is a sophomore named Jennifer Forsyth, the school confirmed. Forsyth is pictured in the 1991 yearbook at West Jordan High as a junior. The book's index lists her in no school activities. She isn't pictured in the 1992 yearbook as a senior, but the district reports she did earn her diploma from the school that year.

Lisa Akers, a close friend of Jennifer Hyatte's and former neighbor and co-worker, told KSL-TV the woman on the news is not the person she knows. "It doesn't even sound like her. It doesn't even fit her whatsoever."

There were never signs that she was capable of committing any crime, let alone murder, she said. Akers also said Jennifer Hyatte never mentioned George.

"I can't imagine where she was at emotionally, physically, because this just isn't her personality. This isn't what she's made of."

The two developed a close friendship when they were neighbors and stayed in touch through phone calls. When Jennifer came to Utah in June, they had a brief visit.

"I feel sorry for her. I still care about her, but I feel sorry for her," she said. "She's facing a lot. She's given up a lot with this."

Faculty and staff who worked at West Jordan High School while Jennifer was a student were contacted by the Deseret Morning News Thursday. Out of those who could be reached, only one could remember the student, Jennifer Forsyth.

"She wasn't a bad kid," said Paul Valdez, who was a hall monitor at West Jordan High School. "I don't remember having any trouble with her. She was kind of a loner."

Contributing: Associated Press, KSL-TV, Jennifer Toomer-Cook, Tammy Walquist

E-mail: astowell@desnews.com