Search intensifies for W. Tennessee prison escapee suspected of killing correctional administrator

Search intensifies for escaped Tenn. inmate

BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - After his escape from a West Tennessee prison, there have still been no confirmed sightings of wanted inmate Curtis Ray Watson.

The intense search has prompted numerous tips and even a few scare for nearby neighborhoods.

State troopers are not far from the prison, checking every car that goes out.

They are also handing out flyers with Watson's photo and information.

"I just seen police everywhere. They were coming from there, they were walking and stuff, for whatever,” said Tanasia Tillis, resident.

Brownsville resident Tanasia Tillis saw a large police presence in the area of Haywood Elementary where someone thought they spotted the escapee. It wasn’t him.

Tillis wasn’t aware of his escape from the West Tennessee Penitentiary Wednesday morning.

"It’s kind of scary. I didn’t know nothing about it, but now that you told me I better be on the lookout,” said Tillis.

There is an all-out manhunt for Watson who is suspected of killing a prison administrator, Debra Johnson, in her home on prison grounds.

The TBI now has warrants for Watson for first degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery in connection with Johnson’s death.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence for an aggravated kidnapping charge in Henry County.

Everyone in the area is on the lookout and on edge.

"We're encouraging people to take precautions and keep doors locked on your cars and on your homes. And watch out,” said Justin Hanson, Covington mayor.

Watson got a head start on his escape.

Johnson had a meeting scheduled with the warden for 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. When she didn’t show employees started looking for her.

After they found her, a head count was done and a count of the farm workers where Watson worked. Investigators say he drove just over a mile away on a tractor he had access to and disappeared.

Billboards, like the one at Beale and BB King, are going up to alert citizens.

"He could be anywhere. We need Tennesseans, as well as our partners through the bordering states, to be vigilant. He could be outside of Tennessee,” said David Rausch, TBI director.

The TBI released photos of Watson with and without facial hair. He is 5′11, 180 pounds with numerous tattoos on his body.

There is a $52,500 reward offered for any information leading to Watson’s arrest.

Contact the TBI if you see him.

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