Escaped prisoner suspected of murdering, sexually assaulting warden is captured

Erika Holt
August 12, 2019

A resident of Hennings, about 10 miles from the prison, had spotted Curtis Watson, 44, on his property in home surveillance video Sunday morning.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and is a suspect in the killing of a corrections official who was found dead in her home on the prison grounds on Wednesday, the day that Watson went missing, according to TBI.

Watson was seen dressed in camouflage bib overalls and a hat carrying a camp backpack.

He's a person of interested in the murder of 64-year-old Debra Johnson, a correctional administrator at the prison. A cord was found wrapped around Johnson's neck, and it was determined she was strangled to death.

TBI and the Tennessee Department of Correction gave a brief update on the search from the prison Friday afternoon. As a "trusty" at the prison, he was allowed to use the equipment and had to wear a reflective vest while working on prison grounds.

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

The TBI said it has received 369 tips and zero credible sightings of him by late Saturday, and is offering a reward of $57,000.

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TBI secured warrants for first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, and aggravated sexual battery on Thursday.

The inmate who escaped a Tennessee prison last week, launching a massive manhunt, has been recaptured.

Johnson, the slain administrator, had been a state employee for 38 years.

When Johnson didn't show up for work, co-workers discovered Johnson's body at her home at 11:30 a.m., according to the affidavit.

Investigators later named Watson a suspect in Johnson's death after the state's Violent Crime Response team concluded their investigation at the crime scene.

"CAPTURED! Thank you for helping us to spread the word this week about Curtis Ray Watson, who was caught this morning in the Henning area". He previously was in prison for aggravated child abuse and was released in 2011.

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