NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As worshipers left the Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church's morning service, they were welcomed with news that police had arrested Curtis Watson, the escaped inmate who is accused of killing Debra Johnson, who was a longtime member of the church.
"I had the alert on my phone that shows me, and I saw it and I immediately said 'good!'" Herman Patton said. Patton worked alongside Johnson as an usher, and was friends with the former TDOC administrator for years.
The hugs and smiles outside the sanctuary were a stark difference from the scene hours earlier, when church-goers prepared for their first service since Johnson was strangled in her West Tennessee home.
"It was a very somber feeling," Patton said. "As I stood at my post at the door, she was always right over there, I could see her sitting there."
The news of Watson's arrest broke in the middle of Sunday's service; one that tellingly focused on trusting God to deliver closure.
"Even when the outcome is painful and provokes sorrow, he remains a God who is consistent and faithful unto us," Pastor David Latimore said, adding that now that Watson is arrested, the church will turn its focus to healing.
"We will celebrate her in this moment, but our lives will continue to celebrate her example," Latimore said.
Latimore added that he will urge people to not only pray for Debra Johnson and her family, but also for the suspect, Curtis Watson. Friends said Watson is the exact type of person Johnson would have sought out to help.
"This is the perfect case for Debra. This is what Debra was made for, for people like this," Patton said.