After 5-day-long manhunt, escaped inmate, murder suspect captured

Crime Tracker

HENNING, Tenn. (WKRN) — After a day-long manhunt in West Tennessee, escaped inmate and murder suspect Curtis Watson was taken into custody Sunday morning.

TBI announced Sunday that they had a confirmed sighting of Watson in Lauderdale County. He was caught on a couple’s Ring surveillance camera.

Harvey and Ann Taylor said they were woken up around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning to their surveillance system alerting them to someone on their property.

Harvey and Ann Taylor

The Taylors said when they realized it was Watson on their property, they called police.

TBI Director David Rausch said hundreds of law enforcement descended upon the area in less than 30 minutes after the Taylors called.

Rausch said Watson was captured around 11 a.m. as he was coming out of a soybean field in the 600 block of Caroline Street. He was 150 feet from the home where he was spotted on camera and 10 miles from the prison he escaped from.

He was booked into the Tipton County Jail.

Watson will be charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated sexual battery, and escape.

The Lauderdale County District Attorney said seeking the death penalty was “certainly a possibility.”

Officials said there’s no indication Watson had help. Everything he had he had taken from different locations. He never left the search area.

The days-long manhunt began Wednesday around 11:30 a.m. when 64-year-old West Tennessee Correctional Administrator Debra Johnson was found dead in her residence on the property of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

MORE: TDOC administrator remembered as ‘woman of integrity’

Investigators said Johnson had been strangled and sexually assaulted. A cord was found wrapped around her neck.

During the investigation into her death, the facility was placed on lockdown and an inmate count was conducted. Watson was found to be missing from a work detail and had reportedly left the property on a tractor, the TBI revealed.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on a conviction of especially aggravated kidnapping in Henry County. His sentence was set to expire in 2025.

He was previously convicted of aggravated child abuse in Carroll County. That sentence expired in 2011.

Watson will be arraigned in Lauderdale County court this week.

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