TDOC and TBI are searching for 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson who escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary Wednesday afternoon.

According to a new timeline released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Friday, Curtis Ray Watson could have been missing for up two hours before correctional officers noticed.

He is accused in the sexual assault and murder of correctional administrator Debra Johnson Wednesday morning. The 44-year-old has been missing from a work detail since.

The timeline shows Watson was released for daily mowing duties at 7 a.m.


Johnson was known to be alive at 8:10 a.m., when she made a phone call.

Twenty minutes later, Watson was seen at Johnson’s home, which is on the prison’s property, by correctional officers. He was in a golf cart.

Between 9-10 a.m. Wednesday, Watson had taken a tractor and a reflective vest from the prison and had driven away.

He was first noticed missing at 11 a.m.

Thirty minutes later, Johnson’s body was discovered by co-workers after she didn’t report for a meeting with the warden. According to warrants filed with the district attorney’s office, she had been strangled.

At noon, the TBI was notified of the homicide and, half an hour later, the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office was notified by prison staff Watson had escaped.

By 1:30 p.m. the tractor Watson stole from the prison, and his prison ID card, were found by authorities.

By 3 p.m., the TBI had issued a Blue Alert, which is a notification system alerting the public to escaped prisoners, and Watson had been added to the TBI’s Most Wanted list.

The TBI is set to host a 2:30 p.m. news conference where more details are expected to be released.

There is currently a $52,500 reward for information which leads to his apprehension and conviction.

Through social media, rumors of sightings have spread quickly, however the TBI said Thursday none had been confirmed to be Watson.

If you believe you see him, call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND. Do not approach him as he is considered extremely dangerous.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.