NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The urgent search for an “extremely dangerous” escaped inmate in West Tennessee has entered its third day.
Curtis Ray Watson escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee on Wednesday, prompting a Blue Alert. He’s accused of killing Tennessee Department of Correction Administrator Debra Johnson.
Watson left prison grounds on a tractor, investigators said.
He was held in the minimum security part of the West Tennessee State Prison. NewsChannel 5 has learned that he was what's known as a "trusty", which means he had special privileges for being a trusted inmate.
Officers found the tractor about a mile and a half away from the prison, but no trace of Watson.
In a press release Friday afternoon, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said they've received 250 tips, but none of them were credible sightings.
They urged residents in the immediate area to remain alert. They encouraged homeowners to double check their property and check on their neighbors.
On Thursday, Governor Bill Lee urged Tennesseans to remain vigilant as the manhunt continues.
“This man is considered extremely dangerous and we need to find him,” Lee said during a press conference.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has issued three warrants for him: first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery.
A $52,500 reward has been offered for his capture. TBI Director David Rausch said “he could be anywhere,” including neighboring states.
The TBI released new photos taken at the prison, just before Watson apparently escaped on his 44th birthday.
NEW PICTURES: Here are surveillance images from West Tennessee State Penitentiary, captured yesterday, just before Curtis Watson escaped custody.— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 8, 2019
The third image -- not of Watson -- represents the type of issued clothing he would have been wearing when he escaped. pic.twitter.com/Tuioxc4BuO
He has family in Henry County, which is just a two-hour drive from Nashville.
Road blocks have been set up in Lauderdale County. Residents have been asked to check trail cameras and any video surveillance for possible sightings and to check on neighbors. If you’re not comfortable checking around your property, you can call local law enforcement.
Watson has a long criminal history. If you see him, call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND.