Tennessee inmate assaulted, strangled prison worker before escaping

Curtis Ray Watson

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations said escaped inmate Curtis Watson has been captured in Henning, Tennessee, after five days on the run. It is believed he sexually assaulted and strangled correctional administrator Debra Johnson, whose body was found at approximately 11:30 a.m., before leaving the prison grounds on a tractor.

Watson, 44, was serving a 15-year sentence on especially aggravated kidnapping since 2013.

The convict, who escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday, is considered extremely risky and should not be approached, authorities said.

Call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND if you see him!

The TBI released photos of Watson's tattoos, which they hope the public can use to identify him.

Phone records show Johnson was talking on the phone at 8:10 a.m., just 20 minutes before corrections workers saw Watson in a golf cart at her house, according to the affidavit.

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Johnson had worked for the Tennessee Department of Corrections for 38 years, rising through the ranks from a correctional officer to a prison administrator. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said on Twitter that Watson was caught Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019.

The TBI were asked during the press conference whether the Taylor's would get the $57,000 reward for Watson's capture.

The TBI said Friday it has received 250 tips but there have been no credible sightings of Watson. It had warned people in the immediate prison area to be on the lookout and double-check their property, crawl spaces and dog houses - anywhere someone could hide. Watson was added to the state's Most Wanted list. Those with trail or property surveillance cameras should check those. They said Curtis was relieved after being arrested, telling police he knew we wouldn't be able to escape given the number of law enforcement in the area, which is estimated to have been 300-400 during the search.

Watson had previously been convicted of aggravated child abuse in Carroll County.

Within hours of Watson's disappearance, authorities recovered the missing tractor, which he had abandoned about two miles from the prison, according to the affidavit.

Watson was finally back in police custody by noon on Sunday.

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