Affidavit reveals new details on Curtis Ray Watson’s escape, as search continues for the suspected killer


HENNING, Tenn. ( – Local 24 News has obtained an affidavit that sheds more light on how inmate Curtis Ray Watson escaped the West Tennessee State Penitentiary after killing administrator Debra Johnson.

The affidavit says Watson left about 7:00 a.m. Wednesday to begin mowing duties. Phones records show Johnson was alive and on the phone about 8:10 a.m. The affidavit states correction officers saw Watson on a golf cart at Johnson’s home at the prison about 8:30 a.m.

It goes on to say sometime between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., Watson took a tractor and reflective vest from the prison and drove away. They say he requested the vest from another inmate. Prison workers discovered Watson was missing around 11:00 a.m.

The affidavit says Debra Johnson didn’t report to work as normal, and coworkers went to check and found her dead at 11:30 a.m. The reflective vest was found in her home. Based on marks around her neck, medical examiner’s office concluded she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

The tractor Watson took was found around 1:30 p.m., more than 2 miles from Johnson’s home on prison grounds. His prison identification was located there.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping. Thursday, TBI released additional warrants of first-degree murder and aggravated sexual battery. 

A $52,500 reward remains in place for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Curtis Watson.  If you spot Watson, do not approach, and call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND immediately.

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