The pursuit began when police were escorting a prison inmate, George Hyatte, from the main courthouse in Kingston, Tennessee, where he had been summoned for a hearing on robbery charges.
A car driven by his wife, Jennifer Hyatte, drew up. She allegedly opened fire on the two prison guards, fatally wounding one.
In the first hours after the couple got away, police voiced determination to catch them but expressed little confidence that it would be soon.
It was the fifth time that George Hyatte, 34, had escaped detention in more than a decade of troubles with the law. He was just two years into a 35-year sentence for robbery and assault when he made his latest getaway.
Police speculated the couple may have had inside help in planning the snatch. Mrs Hyatte, 31, was a prison nurse until last year, when she was sacked for giving extra food to an inmate, George Hyatte. They were married shortly afterwards.
The fugitives' luck apparently ran out late on Wednesday, however, when they hired a cab driver in eastern Kentucky and paid him $200 (£110) in cash to drive them across the state line to Columbus. They claimed they were going to attend a sales convention.
"I didn't believe that," the driver, Mike Wagers, said last night, adding that they had not seemed like aggressive salesperson types. But it was only after he had driven back home that a friend suggested perhaps his passengers had been the fugitive couple on the news. He rang the police.
At least 25 Swat team officers and marshals were crammed on the balcony of the Best Value Inn motel in Columbus when Deputy Marshal Niki Ralston phoned the couple's room.
"A female answered the phone," Ms Ralston said later. "And I said, 'Hey, Jennifer.' She said, 'Yes,' and I knew it was her.
"I said you need to get George, both of you need to exit the hotel room and follow the directions of the officers."
Mrs Hyatte came out limping and was being treated yesterday for a bullet wound to the leg, apparently inflicted by return fire from the prison guards.
She and her husband will be returned to Tennessee where they will face first-degree murder charges over the death of the guard Wayne Morgan, 56.Reuse content