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Manhunt Continues for Escaped, Dangerous TN Inmate

Officials are warning people about an escaped Tennessee inmate, who is considered extremely dangerous and has been on the run for three days.

The man is believed to have murdered a prison official during his escape from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, 50 miles Northeast of Memphis.

“This man is considered extremely dangerous and we need to find him,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in a press conference.

Newly-released surveillance images show inmate Curtis Ray Watson on the day he escaped. He was wearing jeans and a blue Department of Corrections Shirt.

Watson has been in prison since 2012, serving a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated kidnapping. He was previously convicted of aggravated child abuse.

Prison officials say Waston worked in the rural Tennessee prison as a farm laborer.  He reportedly escaped on a tractor which he abandoned about a mile away.

Authorities believe Watson murdered Corrections Administrator Debra Johnson, 65, in her home on prison grounds on the morning he escaped.

Johnson had worked for the Department of Corrections for 38 years.

“Everything about Debra exemplified professionalism and her care for both the people she worked for, worked with, and the inmates she served on a daily basis,” said the Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Correction, Tony Parker. “We will never be able to replace someone like Debra Johnson.”

Since Watson’s escape, troopers have set up checkpoints for cars on the roads leading to and from the prison. They are also searching homes in the area.

The reward for information leading to Watson’s capture is now more than $52,000.

Authorities have received more than 75 tips that place Watson across Tennessee and in other states, but so far none of the sightings have been confirmed. 

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