Local law enforcement urges residents to watch out for escaped inmate

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. — Local law enforcement is urging residents to be aware of their surroundings after the escape of an inmate.

“The suspect does have some relatives, and also some associates that are in the Henry County area, as well as other West Tennessee counties,” Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said.

Belew says local law enforcement is on high alert after inmate Curtis Ray Watson escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County Wednesday.

Watson most recently lived in Paris, according to records from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, but has charges stretching back as far as 2000 in Carroll County as well.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated child abuse.

The TBI says Watson is a suspect in the death of Tennessee Department of Correction employee Debra Johnson.

“Increased law enforcement presence, we are doing some things that are proactive, that will hopefully maybe lead to a tip,” Belew said.

He urges residents to be vigilant and cautious, in case Watson does choose to flee to the area.

And now residents in Tennessee and surrounding states are being asked to stay on alert.

“Make sure your house is locked, make sure your car is locked, everything secure, and be mindful of what is going on around you,” Belew said.

In a news conference, the TBI says they’ve received at least 75 tips from all across the state from those claiming to have seen Watson.

As of Thursday afternoon, none of the sightings had been confirmed.

“We have no sightings of the suspect at all anywhere close to Henry County,” Belew said.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, the TBI announced that the reward for information leading to Watson’s arrest has increased to a total of $52,500.

Investigators say Watson is considered extremely dangerous.

If you believe you’ve spotted Watson, do not approach him. Instead call 911.

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