TBI seeks Lauderdale Co. escapee wanted in corrections employee’s death

UPDATE: Curtis Ray Watson, 44, is a person of interest in the homicide of Debra Johnson, 64. Johnson worked as a correctional administrator at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, according to the Tennessee Department of Investigation.

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has issued a blue alert for an escaped inmate who is a person of interest in the homicide of a Tennessee Department of Correction employee.

Curtis Ray Watson, 44, is an escapee of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.

Watson is also a person of interest in the homicide of a Tennessee Department of Correction employee Wednesday.

Watson should be considered extremely dangerous.

Anyone who sees Watson is urged to call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Around 4:30 p.m., the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed Watson is a person of interest in the homicide of Debra Johnson, 64. Johnson worked as a correctional administrator at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, according to the TBI.

TBI says Johnson was a 38-year veteran employee of the state of Tennessee.

TBI records show Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on a charge of especially aggravated kidnapping. TBI records indicate Watson’s last known address prior to his arrest was in Paris.

His sentence at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary began in 2012. He was scheduled to be released in 2025, according to Tennessee Department of Correction records.

The facility was on lockdown as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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