Manhunt continues for escaped inmate, murder suspect; he was spotted near prison wearing civilian clothes

Published 7:12 am Sunday, August 11, 2019

The search continues for a Tennessee convict charged with sexually assaulting and strangling a corrections administrator, then escaping on a tractor. Investigators now believe the escapee is still in the area of the prison after a homeowner provided security camera images showing a man fitting the inmate’s description.

The manhunt Sunday for 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson is in its fifth day. Rewards totaling $57,000 are available for information leading to Watson’s arrest.

An affidavit says Watson was discovered missing about 11 a.m. Wednesday, several hours after being seen near the house at West Tennessee State Penitentiary where 64-year-old employee Debra Johnson lived. Authorities say Johnson was found deceased in the house with a cord around her neck.

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Watson had been tasked with mowing duties at 7 a.m. that day, with access to a golf cart and tractor.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted Saturday that it believes Watson remains in the surrounding area. Early Sunday investigators release two images from a property owner’s security camera showing Watson apparently looking through a refrigerator on a carport. He appeared to have changed his clothing since the escape. The images’ timestamp shows they were taken at approximately 3:30 a.m. Sunday.