TBI issues Blue Alert for prison escapee, person of interest in TDOC employee’s homicide


HENNING, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has issued a state-wide “Blue Alert” for an escaped prison inmate and person-of-interest in the death of a corrections employee.

Officials saying Wednesday evening they plan to continue to search for Curtis Ray Watson through the night. Watson, 44, escaped the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.

Watson was also added to TBI’s Most Wanted list with a reward up to $2,500.

SEE ALSO: What is a Blue Alert and why did you get one on your phone?

He is described as white male, weighs 140 pounds, is 5’11” and has brown eyes.

Watson is a person-of-interest in the slaying of a Tennessee Dept. of Correction (TDOC) employee on Wednesday.

The TDOC employee was Debra Johnson, 64, West Tennessee Correctional Administrator and a 38-year veteran employee of the state of Tennessee.

According to TDOC Commissioner Parker, Johnson’s body was found in her residence on the premises of the penitentiary Wednesday morning.

Debra Johnson

“There was indication in her residence that foul play was involved,” Parker said.

The facility was then locked down and an official count was conducted, Parker said, after which they discovered that Watson was missing from his work detail of farm labor at the facility.

“Appropriate protocol was initiated, the TBI was contacted along with local law enforcement and a manhunt was initiated immediately,” Parker said.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping. He had previously been convicted of aggravated child abuse.

He had had no disciplinary actions since 2007, Parker said.

When asked questions regarding the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death in her on-site residence at the prison, TDOC and TBI said it was too early in the investigation to share.

Watson should be considered extremely dangerous, TBI says.

If you see him or know of his whereabouts, officials say do not approach him and to call 911 or 1-855-ALERT-TBI.

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