Escaped Inmate Suspected in Sex Assault, Murder of Prison Official Is Caught Due to Home Security Cam

Curtis Watson, who escaped from a Tennessee prison last week, was captured Sunday after being caught on a home's security camera in the middle of the night

Curtis Watson
Photo: Curtis Watson Twitter

An inmate who escaped from a Tennessee prison last week was captured Sunday night after being caught on a home’s security camera in the middle of the night.

Curtis Watson was taken into custody by authorities Sunday morning 10 miles from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, where he escaped lastWednesday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced at a press conference Sunday.

Watson, a minimum security inmate, is accused of sexually assaulting and killing Debra Johnson, 64, a Tennessee Department of Corrections administrator who lived on prison grounds. He was supposed to be mowing her lawn but instead allegedly attacked her and then escaped on a tractor.

Curtis Watson
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

For days, Watson’s mugshot was broadcasted on news stations across the state.

At 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Henning residents Harvey and Ann Taylor were awoken by an alert from their Ring surveillance camera. On the black and white footage they saw a man attempting to climb into a refrigerator in their home’s carport.

“That’s him! That’s him!” Ann Taylor told her husband when she saw Watson’s face and beard, Harvey Taylor said at the press conference.

“I was frightened at first,” Harvey Taylor told reporters. “When we recognized who it was, it heightened that fright.”

The couple called 911 and within minutes a search team arrived. Hours later, surrounded by hundreds of law enforcement officials, Watson was found in a bean field and surrendered.

Debra Johnson
Debra Johnson. Tennessee Department of Corrections

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Once in custody, Watson expressed relief.

“He had made the comment [that] he knew he wasn’t getting away because of the number of law enforcement present,” District Attorney Mark Davidson for the 25th Judicial District said.

Watson had been behind bars serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted of aggravated kidnapping in 2013. Before that, he had been incarcerated for aggravated child abuse and was released in 2011.

He now faces multiple charges including aggravated sexual battery, escape and first degree murder.

Watson is scheduled to appear in court later this week.

“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. Prosecutors are looking at the possibility of the death penalty.

As authorities prepare to prosecute Watson, his victim’s family mourns their loved one.

“She was good to everyone,” Debra Johnson’s son, Mychal Austin, told WKRN. “She just wanted everyone to have a fair shot at life. …She wanted to make sure inmates got their fair shake. Not give them the opportunity, but set the stage for them to have the opportunity to be rehabilitated.”

It is unclear whether Watson has an attorney to comment on his behalf.

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