Escaped Inmate Suspected of Killing Prison Official Caught After 4 Days on the Run

Curtis Ray Watson was found after four days on the run from a Tennessee prison.
TBI

After an intense four-day manhunt for an escaped Tennessee inmate who officials suspect killed a prison worker upon his breakout, Curtis Ray Watson has been taken back into custody.

Watson had been serving a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated kidnapping at West Tennessee State Penitentiary when he escaped custody.

It all began Wednesday morning when Watson was released from his cell for his work duties mowing. At 8:30 a.m., Watson was seen on a golf cart outside the on-site home of prison administrator Debra Johnson. Shortly after, he was seen taking a tractor and reflective vest from the prison and driving away. The tractor was later found abandoned.

Prison officials noticed Watson was missing around 11 a.m. And a half-hour later, coworkers found Johnson's body in her home when she didn't report for work.

The prison was immediately locked down and an inmate count was conducted. Watson was nowhere to be found.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had issued a "blue alert" for the missing convict, meaning police are looking for a violent criminal suspected of hurting a member of law enforcement. Watson was added to the state's Most Wanted list.

Officials warned residents in the area to be on high alert for Watson and to continuously check on neighbors and their own property. They offered a reward of $52,500 for information leading to his capture, and hundreds of tips poured in.

Police were able to close in on Watson by Saturday morning. A resident in Henning spotted Watson on his property and sent surveillance footage to authorities. By then, Watson had changed his clothes, and police again urged people to remain "alert and vigilant."

The reward was then increased to $57,000 for information leading to the capture of the man police suspected of killing a woman whose "distinguished career" with the Tennessee Department of Corrections spanned 38 years.

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

Authorities are investigating how Watson escaped the prison. They are also investigating the circumstances of Johnson's death. It is not clear what, if any, contact the two had before she died.

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