Tennessee Inmate Who Escaped On Tractor Considered Person Of Interest In Slaying Of Prison Administrator

The body of 64-year-old Debra Johnson was found in her home located on prison property shortly after Curtis Ray Watson escaped while on a work detail. 

A Tennessee inmate who escaped prison on a tractor during a work program has been named a person of interest in the death of a prison administrator found slain in her home.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has issued a statewide Blue Alert for Curtis Ray Watson, an inmate who escaped Wednesday from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning while working as a farm laborer as part of a work detail, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

Shortly after Watson fled on tractor, officials discovered the body of 64-year-old Debra Johnson in her home located on the prison property, WMC reports. The body was found around 11:30 a.m., officials said.

According to Commissioner Tony Parker, there were indications “foul play” was involved in her death.

Johnson had worked as a West Tennessee Correctional Administrator for the Tennessee Department of Correction and had a 38-year history as a state employee.

Authorities said Watson is considered “extremely dangerous” and has a history of violence.

“If you see him call 911,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations said in a statement.

Watson had been serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping at the time of the escape. He also has a past conviction for aggravated child abuse.

The tractor he fled on was later found abandoned about a mile away from where Watson had been working, ABC News reports.

After authorities realized he had escaped, the prison was immediately put on lock down.

“Rest assured, we will find this offender and bring justice to the family of Debra Johnson,” Parker said.

Watson is described as being 5’11” and weighing 140 pounds. The inmate has brown eyes and a long gray beard, although officials say it may be possible that Watson could try to alter his appearance.

The TBI also released images of Watson’s multiple distinct tattoos.

Officials have asked the community to stay vigilant and not to approach him if he’s discovered. Anyone with information about his current whereabouts is urged to contact authorities.

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