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Inmate Who Escaped Prison On Tractor Has Been Captured, Charged With Warden's Murder

Curtis Ray Watson was recaptured about 10 miles away from the prison fled after five days on the run. He's now been charged in the death of warden Debra Johnson, who was found sexually assaulted and strangled in her home.

By Gina Tron
Curtis Ray Watson

The Tennessee inmate who escaped prison on a tractor during a work program last week around the same time that a warden was found sexually assaulted and murdered on prison grounds has been captured.

“CAPTURED!” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) tweeted Sunday along with a photo of a not-too-happy-looking Curtis Ray Watson sitting in the back of a patrol car decked out in camo gear. 

He was captured in Watson, Tennessee after five days on the run. The 44-year-old escaped inmate was caught about 10 miles from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary where he escaped from. Authorities were able to close in on him after a couple called in a tip. They had spotted him on their home surveillance system stealing some drinks from their outdoor fridge, according to USA Today.

Watson escaped last Wednesday while working as a farm laborer as part of a work detail, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Shortly after he sped off on the tractor, the body of of 64-year-old Debra Johnson was discovered in her home located on the prison property, WMC reported. She had been sexually assaulted before she was strangled with a cord, according to WSMV in Nashville. Watson has already been charged with her murder.

"Today, Curtis Ray Watson went from being an escaped convict to being a criminal defendant," District Attorney General Mark Davidson said at a press conference held Sunday. Authorities are now considering seeking out the death penalty for Watson, USA Today reports.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence for an aggravated kidnapping charge. He was convicted and sentenced back in 2013. Before that, he was convicted of child abuse, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

"The vigilant efforts of search teams from the Tennessee Department of Correction, THP, FBI, US Marshal's, local law enforcement, TBI, ATF and with helpful tips from the citizens of Lauderdale County led to Watson's capture at approximately 11 a.m. on Sunday, August 11," the Tennessee Department of Correction said in a press release.

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