An inmate who remains on the loose allegedly strangled a longtime corrections officer to death and sexually assaulted her before escaping a Tennesee state prison on Wednesday.
In a recently-released affidavit, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation alleged that West Tennessee State Penitentiary inmate Curtis Ray Watson, 44, was released for work duty to mow the grass on the prison grounds. Watson, who’s a minimum custody offender, was a “trusty” at the prison and had access to equipment, according to WREG.
The affidavit also provided insight into how prison administrator Debra Johnson, 64, died on Wednesday. The medical examiner confirmed Johnson was strangled and sexually assaulted. Her death was listed as a homicide.
UPDATE: As our search for Curtis Watson continues, we've pulled together a timeline of events from August 7th. pic.twitter.com/7PVDqkj4I3
— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 9, 2019
Johnson’s residence is reportedly located on the prison grounds. The news station reported that authorities realized Johnson hadn’t checked in for to work, prompting them to go to her home. There, they located Johnson’s body and a reflective vest similar to the one Watson was seen wearing.
State officials believe Watson escaped sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday. WSMV reported it wasn’t until 11:00 a.m. when prison staff realized he was missing; Johnson’s body was discovered 30 minutes later.
Phone records reflected that Johnson was on the phone at 8:10 a.m. Corrections officers reportedly saw Watson on a golf cart near Johnson’s home at around 8:30 a.m.
Watson allegedly escaped on a tractor which was found roughly a mile from the penitentiary.
Watson is a minimum custody offender who’s serving a 15-year sentence for a 2012 aggravated kidnapping conviction. At the time, police alleged he hit a woman over the head with an object and raped her multiple times.
In 2011, Watson was released from prison after serving a sentence for aggravated child abuse.
Watson shouldn’t be approached as considered extremely dangerous. He was described as being 5-feet-11-inches tall; his wanted poster shows him with a bald head and a long white beard.
The Covington Leader reported that state and federal agencies have offered a total of $52,500 for information leading to Watson’s arrest: $25,000 from the state of Tennessee; $2,500 from the TBI; $5,000 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and $10,000 each from the FBI and U.S. Marshals.
Anyone with information regarding Curtis Ray Watson’s whereabouts should call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND.
[Featured image: Curtis Ray Watson, Debra Johnson/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]