• Curtis Watson to undergo mental evaluation, could be given death penalty, DA says

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    LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. - After an intense five-day search, Curtis Watson, 44, was captured 10 miles away from the prison he escaped from. On Wednesday, Watson appeared for his first day in court.

    ORIGINAL STORY: Woman dead after inmate escapes Tennessee state prison; TBI investigating

    Watson has been charged with the murder and sexual battery of correctional administrator Debra Johnson, 64.

    Officials told FOX13 Watson could face the death penalty for Johnson's murder.

    Watson appeared for his first day in court today at the Lauderdale County Justice Center at 1:30 p.m.

    The district attorney, Mark Davidson, said he added extra details in the sexual battery affidavit during the arraignment to prove the assault took place.

    Although, Davidson told FOX13 it is unclear if Johnson was sexually assaulted before or after her death.

    Watson was taken to court, but he wasn’t in the same room as the judge because his attorney requested a video arraignment.

    A mental health professional will also evaluate Watson before his preliminary hearing in September.

    The DA’s office hopes it will happen quickly – it usually takes 30 days or less.

    Watson will be evaluated in jail to determine if he is competent for trial and if he had mental disease or issues at the times of the crime he committed.

    The DA’s office told FOX13 they plan on bringing the case before a grand jury in October.

    He has been moved to Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville. 


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    Johnson was found dead inside her home located on the grounds of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

    The morning of her death, phone records show Johnson was alive and talking on the phone around 8:10 a.m. Correctional officers noticed Watson on a golf cart at Johnson’s house around 8:30 that morning.

    Prison officials realized Watson was missing around 11 a.m. Coworkers went to Johnson's home to see if she was there, but they discovered her body at 11:30 a.m. 

    A reflective vest that Watson was wearing was also found in Johnson’s home.

    Agents found a cord wrapped around Johnson’s neck, leading agents to believe she was strangled to death. Therefore, the death was determined to be a homicide.

    State and federal agencies pledged $57,000 for any tips that led to the capture and conviction of Watson.

    Five days later, the TBI told FOX13 Watson appeared on a home security camera 10 miles away from the prison around 3:30 a.m. on August 11.

    It appeared that Watson had changed clothes and was wearing a camo bib overalls and a hat while carrying a backpack. He was located and taken into custody a few hours later.

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