Inmate escapes from Tennessee prison on tractor after strangling officer to death, residents urged to stay vigilant as search continues
Curtis Ray Watson, 44, bolted from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on August 7, the authorities have asked residents to remain watchful and not to approach him
An inmate suspected in the death of a Tennessee prison officer escaped from prison on a tractor while working on the home grounds of the officer.
Debra Johnson, 64, was found dead at her home on the prison grounds three hours after Curtis Ray Watson, 44, bolted from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on August 7, Daily Mail reported.
Johnson was a 38-year veteran employee of Tennesse state and served in various positions including deputy warden and warden. Her body was found around 11:30 am.
Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on account of aggravated kidnapping.
He was discovered missing when the officials circulated a blue alert following the discovery of Johnson's body. The alert is issued when law enforcement officials are injured, go missing or are killed. The facility was immediately put on lockdown.
Authorities said Watson was working as a farm laborer and used the tractor in his escape out of the facility.
The tractor was located a mile away from the facility.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted a timeline of events from the day of Watson's escape and Johnson's death on Friday, August 9.
On August 7, Watson was let out for his daily mowing duties at 7 am. Officers were said to have seen Watson on a prison facility golf cart at Johnson's home at 8.30am.
He is said to have taken a tractor and driven away sometime between 9am and 10am.
At 11:30 am, agents found a cord wrapped around Johnson's neck at her home.
Her death was declared homicide by strangulation.
By 3 pm, Watson was added to Tennessee's Most Wanted list.
On August 8, Watson was charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery.
The authorities are currently searching for Watson and have set up various roadblocks around West Tennessee.
They have asked residents who live in the area to check for possibilities of missing food, weapons or vehicles.
Officials are asking the public to be watchful and report if they notice any sort of strange activity.
They have been warned not to approach Watson and call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND if they spot him anywhere.
A $52,500 reward has been announced for anyone who helps the police in catching hold of the escaped convict.
Johnson's death came as a shock to her colleagues as they considered her to be a very dedicated employee who was very hardworking and devoted to her role as part of the Tennessee State Penitentiary.