accused of murdering a prison administrator was captured in Tennessee after five days on the run, authorities said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), the state’s main law enforcement agency, announced the capture of Curtis Watson, 44, on Sunday. He’s suspected of murdering 64-year-old corrections administrator Debra Johnson in her home on prison grounds Wednesday, when he escaped after leaving West Tennessee State Penitentiary on a work detail. Johnson had worked for the Department of Corrections for 38 years.
Officers found Watson after he was spotted on the home security cameras of Henning, Tennessee, residents Harvey and Ann Taylor at around 3:30 a.m. Harvey Taylor spoke at a press conference Sunday afternoon.
“With God’s help they got him,” Harvey said, standing next to his wife. “Our community should be relieved he’s back in custody.”
Also at the press conference Sunday, District Attorney Mark Davidson thanked federal and state law enforcement personnel for their quick work in Watson’s capture. Agents arrived within 30 minutes to swarm the area and conduct a successful search.
“Thanks to their efforts, he’s been apprehended and he can be held accountable for his crimes,” Davidson said. “Today Curtis Ray Watson went from being an escaped convict to being a criminal defendant.”
TBI released a new photo of Watson on Sunday night, also noting “430 tips came in during” Watson’s search.
Earlier on Sunday, the TBI released surveillance footage showing Watson opening a refrigerator outside a home in Henning, not far from the prison. The bureau announced his capture soon after and released a video showing Watson being hauled into custody.
Watson had been in prison since 2012, serving a 15-year prison sentence for an aggravated kidnapping conviction. He was previously convicted of aggravated child abuse and worked in the rural Tennessee prison as a farm laborer. Officials say he escaped on a tractor, and later abandoned it about a mile away.
A huge manhuntsince he escaped custody Aug. 7. On Thursday, investigators said they secured warrants for Watson on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery.
“This man is considered extremely dangerous and we need to find him,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said during the search.
At the press conference on Sunday, District Attorney Davidson said Watson’s capture brought closure to a deadly episode.
“Rest assured, our office will be resolved to see he will be put back, so he will never escape again harm anyone in our communities.”