LAUDERDALE COUNTY – Fugitive Curtis Ray Watson may have been seen in the Cherry community Saturday.

Residents say a home near Hwy. 371 was burglarized overnight while the occupants slept, with only food and water being taken. They tell the media law enforcement reported Watson was seen near a wooded area five miles from the prison.


On Saturday afternoon the TBI said they believed he was still local.

WREG reported Watson had been seen in the area early Saturday night.

This has not been confirmed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is the agency providing the public with official updates about the ongoing search.

Watson escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday morning and is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling correctional administrator Debra Johnson in the process.

He reportedly fled the prison on a tractor during daily mowing duties and was missing for up to three hours before his escape had been discovered. The tractor was found two miles east of the prison.

Johnson was a 38-year veteran of the Tennessee Department of Corrections who oversaw four West Tennessee facilities.

The manhunt, which has made headlines nationwide for days, is ongoing and is being conducted by the TBI, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office, Tipton County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Memphis Police, Collierville Police and other agencies.

The reward for his apprehension and conviction was raised to $57,000 Saturday.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

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