Tennessee prison employee killed; inmate escapes on tractor

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This undated photo provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows Curtis Ray Watson. Authorities in Tennessee are searching for Watson, an escaped inmate who is a person of interest in the recent homicide of a Department of Correction employee, after he escaped Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2019, from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) outside of Memphis. (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation via AP)

RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee official says an inmate who is a person of interest in the death of a corrections employee escaped the area on a tractor.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the tractor used by 44-year-old Curtis Ray Watson was found about a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. The facility is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Memphis.

Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said 64-year-old correctional administrator Debra Johnson was found dead in her residence at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. He said she lived in a property on site.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on an especially aggravated kidnapping conviction out of Henry County. He worked at the prison as a farm laborer.

TBI says Watson should be considered extremely dangerous.

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