What’s next in the Curtis Watson case now that he’s in custody

Posted at 8:29 AM, Aug 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-12 14:28:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — After five days on the run, Tennessee inmate Curtis Watson was taken into custody this weekend. He will be arraigned this week on his new charges and could face the death penalty.

Watson is facing a handful of charges including escape, aggravated sexual battery and first-degree murder in the killing of Department of Corrections administrator Debra Johnson. He virtually led authorities right to him Sunday morning when he was caught on a surveillance camera sneaking around someone's carport.

His time on the run expired later that morning when he was arrested as he came out of a soybean field in Henning.

Related story: Escaped inmate Curtis Watson captured after five day manhunt, could face death penalty

The field is 10 miles from the West Tennessee prison and close to the home where he was seen on a RING security camera peering into a fridge in the overnight hours.

Harvey and Ann Taylor were the couple who spotted him rummaging through their carport.

The director of the TBI said Watson confessed to authorities that he knew he wasn't going to get away because of the number of law enforcement looking for him. He's now being held in Tipton County and will be arraigned this week.

It's still unclear if the Taylors will get that $57,000 reward for their tip. Another woman apparently called 911 around the same time Sunday morning when she saw him in her neighborhood.

Watson was on lawn mowing duty when the TBI says he sexually assaulted and strangled Johnson at her home Wednesday at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. His arraignment is set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Lauderdale County general sessions court.

Johnson's funeral will be held Friday at The Temple Church on Kings Lane in Nashville. She worked nearly 40 years with the Tennessee Department of Correction, where moved up the ranks from a correctional officer, to warden and to her current role as correctional administrator.

Debra Johnson

The news came as a shock to her children. Despite the horrific way Johnson was killed, her children say they forgive her killer.

"She was a public servant, she was loving, she was an awesome mom and not just to us but everyone that she contacted. She was that mother spirit," said victim's daughter, Dr. Shernaye Johnson.

When asked if they would be making any changes to its "trusty" policy, TDOC released a statement saying: "After any major incident such as this, the Department of Correction conducts an after-action evaluation to look at all facets of the incident."

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
Funeral arrangements announced for murdered TDOC employee, Debra Johnson
Debra Johnson's children say they forgive the man who killed their mother