Search intensifies for escaped inmate and murder suspect Curtis Ray Watson

Local News

HENNING, Tenn. ( – Neighbors who live near the West Tennessee State Penitentiary are on high alert but are staying vigilant until Curtis Ray Watson is found.

Friday was day three of the search for the escaped inmate, and law enforcement continued to check cars going to and from the penitentiary and had guard posts up in the miles surrounding.

According to an affidavit, Watson allegedly raped and strangled prison administrator Debra Johnson before fleeing. TBI is warning people that if they do see him he is “extremely dangerous.”

Christopher Batson lives 15 miles from the penitentiary and said he will do anything to keep his family safe. He and his family have been searching for answers since Watson went missing on Wednesday morning.

“I just hope they catch him,” Batson said. “Alive, dead, I don’t care. He’s asking for a brutal situation coming his way.” 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it has had 250 leads, but no concrete evidence pointing to where Watson could be. Officials are still looking for clothing or anything that could lead to a clue.

“Whatever frustration that is felt out there I guarantee you, it is ten fold for the men and women who are doing the searches and interviews looking for Mr. Watson,” TBI spokeswoman Keli McAlister said. 

Neighbors told Local 24 News that they saw officials searching homes, cornfields, and yards for any possible sighting of Watson. 

Another neighbor said her mother lives near the penitentiary, and she’s been worried for her safety with Watson still on the loose. She said she’s extra careful to lock her doors and be on high alert.

“I haven’t had any sleep,” that neighbor said.  “Just tossing and turning all night and just waking up to someone banging on my door and it be him.”

TBI is also reminding people in the area that if have sheds or refrigerators outside, they should double check to make sure no food or belongings are missing.

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