Authorities: Confirmed sighting of escaped Tennessee inmate

Cheryl Sanders
August 12, 2019

He fled the area in a tractor, which was found just over a mile away, along with his prison identification.

A manhunt is underway for Curtis Ray Watson, who escaped Wednesday from West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, and is considered extremely unsafe.

Tennessee also activated their state prison escape plan, which brings together a multitude of organizations and agencies to deploy as many resources as possible in the pursuit and apprehension of Watson. When they pulled up the screen, they saw a man looking in the refrigerator in their carport, but couldn't see his face.

"From there, with God's help, they got him", Harvey Taylor said, saying he was frightened at first.

"Tremendous news that this fugitive is back in custody", Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter.

The field is 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the prison Watson escaped from Wednesday and near a home where he was seen on a surveillance camera earlier Sunday, Rausch said.

Watson surrendered "immediately" with his hands up and appeared to be "relieved to be over with his run", Rausch said.

Debra Johnson, a 64-year-old penitentiary corrections administrator, was found dead in her residence on prison grounds one hour after prison officials discovered Watson was missing at 10:30 a.m. Johnson lived on prison grounds.

A warrant was issued charging him with first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery.

Then half an hour later, co-workers were concerned that Johnson had not shown up for work, and sent authorities to her home. Investigators said she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

Watson, a minimum security inmate at the prison, is accused of killing a prison administrator and escaping Wednesday.

"Rest assured that we will find this offender and bring justice to the family of Debra Johnson", Commissioner Tony Parker of the Tennessee Department of Correction said.

Watson had been serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping in Henry County.

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