TBI makes good on $32K reward to citizens who helped in the capture of Curtis Watson


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The capture of an escaped prison inmate who’s alleged to have murdered a Tennessee Department of Correction employee was made possible by nearby residents’ security cameras; those people were rewarded with some of the cash promised by state and federal agencies during the 5-day August manhunt.

Curtis Ray Watson, 44, has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated sexual battery, especially aggravated burglary and escape for the events that took place beginning Wednesday, Aug. 7.

He was captured Sunday, Aug. 11 after being spotted on local residents’ home security cameras.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced it and partnering agencies handed out $32,250 in rewards to the aiding citizens. Rewards totaling $57,000 had been offered.

The remaining reward funds will be available pending a conviction in the case, the TBI said.

RELATED | DA: Prosecution is looking at the possibility of seeking the death penalty for Watson

Watson escaped a Henning, Tenn. penitentiary on a tractor while on a work detail in early August, prompting the TBI to issue a state-wide Blue Alert.

Watson had been a person-of-interest in the slaying of a Tennessee Dept. of Correction (TDOC) employee, Debra Johnson, 64, who was a West Tennessee Correctional Administrator and a 38-year veteran employee of the state of Tennessee.

According to TDOC Commissioner Parker, Johnson’s body was found in her residence on the premises of the penitentiary and after a lockdown of the facility, it was discovered Watson was not present and had escaped while on his farming work detail.

Officials later released information on the escape and death of Johnson, saying they believed Watson sexually assaulted then killed Johnson before escaping.

RELATED | Escaped Tennessee inmate captured after 5-day manhunt

Gov Bill Lee said at a press conference Aug. 8 the state will offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Curtis Watson, 44, who had escaped the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning. The FBI and U.S. Marshals contributed $10,000 each; plus $2,500 reward from the TBI, a $5,000 contribution from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and TDOC added $4,500 which brings the total reward to $57,000.

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