MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WTVF) — Curtis Ray Watson pleaded guilty to charges related to the murder of Tennessee Department of Corrections Administrator Debra Johnson on Monday.
Watson was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 25 years for other charges connected to the crime.
Back in 2019, Watson escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, leading law enforcement on a four-day manhunt. Following his escape, investigators say he raped and murdered Johnson.
The Tennessee Prison for Women is now named in her honor - the Debra K Johnson Rehabilitation Center for Women.
Johnson's family said Monday's sentencing was very bittersweet, but they are glad this chapter has closed allowing them to move on with the healing process. They say steps will be taken to better protect female correction employees.
Curtis Watson writes about his escape: "All I can say is I was headed to visit my mother's grave."
Escaped inmate Curtis Watson captured after five day manhunt, could face death penalty
Murdered TDOC employee was sexually assaulted, died of strangulation
Funeral arrangements announced for murdered TDOC employee, Debra Johnson
Escapee Curtis Watson had special privileges easing his escape