Prison escapee & suspected murderer Curtis Watson faces judge

Local News

LAUDERDALE CO., Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – A man accused of murdering a prison official and taking authorities on a five-day manhunt faced a judge Wednesday afternoon.

Curtis Watson was taken into custody Sunday, five days after escaping the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. Authorities said Watson killed prison administrator Debra Johnson in her home prior to his escape.

An arraignment for Watson was held for Wednesday in Lauderdale County, during which the judge read Watson his charges. Watson is facing charges of first-degree murder, aggravated sexual battery, especially aggravated burglary and escape. A preliminary hearing was set for September 25th at 1:30 p.m.

District Attorney General Mark Davidson said his office is considering seeking the death penalty.

“I can assure you that our office will be resolved to see that he is put back where he can never escape again and harm anybody in our communities,” Davidson said, in a press conference, following Watson’s capture.

After five days on the run, Watson was captured after he was found in a soybean field ten miles east of the prison. A ring camera caught Watson Sunday morning rummaging through a refrigerator outside a Henning home.

Prior to his escape, Watson was supposed to be mowing as part of his work detail, that’s when he’s accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Johnson.

“I want to give our condolences and sympathies to the family of Debra Johnson, the victim in this case. Our office will be doing everything that we can to guide them and support them through the process and prosecution,” Davidson said.

The funeral for Johnson, who’s remembered as a dedicated public servant, will be held on Friday in Nashville. Johnson worked for the Tennessee Department of Corrections for 38 years.

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