• Woman dead after inmate escapes Tennessee state prison; TBI investigating

    Updated:

    LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. - One person is dead after an inmate escaped a Tennessee state prison, according to authorities.

    Investigators said the inmate – identified as Curtis Watson – escaped Wednesday morning from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.

    RELATED: Who is Curtis Watson, escaped inmate accused of killing state employee at West Tennessee prison

    According to officials, that inmate killed a woman during the escape. TBI officials confirmed the victim was Debra Johnson, 64, a TDOC employee.

    In a press conference, TBI officials said Johnson was found dead inside her home around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. They said her home is located on the premises of the prison, but it is unclear how Watson gained access. 

    Immediately after Johnson's body was found, officers conducted an inmate count and discovered Watson was missing. That is when the manhunt began.

    Officials said Watson was serving a sentence for aggravated kidnapping and was scheduled to be released in 2025.

    TBI said Watson left the area in a tractor, and it was recovered about a mile away from the facility.

    Officials said Johnson had worked for the state for 38 years.

    The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Lauderdale County authorities are all investigating the incident.

    Watson is still on the run, and authorities are actively searching for him. Investigators said Watson should be considered "extremely dangerous."

    According to authorities, the search will continue throughout the night in the areas surrounding the prison. Residents in nearby counties are asked to be cautious. 


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