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Escaped Tennessee convict could have left state

Curtis Ray Watson is accused of killing a corrections employee and escaping a prison. (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)
Curtis Ray Watson is accused of killing a corrections employee and escaping a prison. (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)(WKYT)
Published: Aug. 8, 2019 at 2:27 PM EDT
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The Latest on the search for an escaped convict in Tennessee (all times local):

1:05 p.m.

Authorities say a Tennessee convict who's suspected of killing a corrections employee and escaping a prison on a tractor could have left the state.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said during a news conference in Nashville that the search continued Thursday for 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson. Rausch said Watson escaped the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday on a tractor.

Watson had been considered a person of interest in the killing of 64-year-old administrator Debra Johnson. Her body was found Wednesday in her residence on the prison's property in Henning.

Rausch said Watson is now considered a suspect in Johnson's killing. He's considered extremely dangerous. Rausch said there have been no credible sightings of Watson.

Rausch asked those who live in the area of the prison to look for things that are "out of place," such as missing food, weapons or vehicles. The TBI chief said Watson could be outside of Tennessee.

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8:30 a.m.

Authorities are searching for a Tennessee convict who officials say is a person of interest in the death of a corrections employee and escaped a prison on a tractor.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said the tractor used by 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson was found about a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday. The facility is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Memphis.

Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said 64-year-old administrator Debra Johnson was found dead in her residence Wednesday. He said she lived in a property on site.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on an especially aggravated kidnapping conviction. He worked at the prison as a farm laborer.

TBI says Watson should be considered extremely dangerous.

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