RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a Tennessee convict who officials say is a person of interest in the death of a corrections employee and escaped a prison on a tractor.
The tractor used by Curtis Ray Watson, 44, was found about a mile away from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said. The facility is about 60 miles from Memphis.
Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said 64-year-old administrator Debra Johnson was found dead in her home Wednesday. He said she lived in a property on site.
Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on an especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and worked at the prison as a farm laborer.
TBI reported Thursday morning on Twitter that while there have been reports of sightings across the state, none of those reports had been confirmed.
Roadblocks have been set up near Henning, with authorities searching vehicles for Watson. Law enforcement agents fanned out throughout the area, which includes farms, fields, rivers and woods. Railroad tracks also crisscross a landscape dotted by small towns and cities.
Johnson, the slain administrator, had been a state employee for 38 years. She oversaw wardens at several area prisons, corrections officials said.
TBI says Watson should be considered extremely dangerous.