Tennessee prison employee killed; inmate escapes

7:30 UPDATE: TBI and TDOC officials released more information on the Blue Alert in West Tennessee.

The woman killed is a high-ranking official in the Dept. of Corrections.  Debra Johnson is a 38 year veteran of the department who oversaw all the prison wardens in the western part of the state.

Her body was found in her home, which is one of several homes on the grounds of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

Prison officials immediately locked down the prison and did a prisoner count.

They found that Watson was missing from the farm work detail he was assigned to.

“We don’t know of any specific contact she may have had with him.” But they cannot rule out that the two may have crossed paths at some point in his prison career.

Housing units are right on the campus of the prison.

They believe he fled her home on a tractor, which they found abandoned a mile away.

TBI is asking the public to note the pictures of Watson, but do not approach him.

“He is to be considered dangerous.”

Watson escaped on his 44th birthday.

He was sentenced to prison for aggravated child abuse and especially aggravated kidnapping.

The prison is just a few miles from the Mississippi River


RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) – Authorities in Tennessee are searching for an escaped inmate who is a person of interest in the recent homicide of a Department of Correction employee.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson escaped Wednesday from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) outside of Memphis.

The TBI issued a “Blue Alert,” which is used to inform the public of violent suspects who kill or seriously injure law enforcement officers in the line of duty.

Authorities say 64-year-old Debra Johnson, a correctional administrator, was killed on Wednesday. They didn’t give further details.

Watson has been incarcerated since 2012 for an aggravated kidnapping conviction. Police said at the time that Watson knocked a woman over the head with an object and raped her multiple times.

TBI says Watson should be considered extremely dangerous.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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