HENNING, TN (WSMV) - On the fourth day of the search for fugitive Curtis Watson, WMC-TV reports that law enforcement followed up a credible tip that the fugitive may be in the small community of Cherry in Lauderdale County.
Residents told the TV station that authorities were searching for the escaped inmate by using a helicopter.
Early Sunday morning, on the fifth day, the Department of Corrections tweeted two photos of Watson caught on a homeowner’s security camera. In the photos you can see the clothing he is wearing.
ALERT: Confirmed siting of Curtis Ray Watson in Henning, TN. He has changed his clothing as can be seen in the photos provided by a resident who notified authorities that they’d spotted him on their property. Residents in the area should be ALERT and VIGILANT pic.twitter.com/RJJB255kVj— Dept of Correction (@TNTDOC1) August 11, 2019
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports reward money for an arrest and conviction has now reached $57,000.
TBI officials said the Tennessee Department of Correction added $4,500 to the previous total.
About 369 tips have been received, but no credible sightings.
TBI officials added that Watson is still believed to be in the area surrounding the West Tennessee prison where he killed a prison administrator and escaped Wednesday.
Arrest warrants have been obtained by the TBI for Watson, who will be charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and aggravated sexual battery in connection with the death of Debra Johnson.
UPDATE: TBI has secured warrants for fugitive Curtis Watson for the following three charges:-First Degree Murder-Especially Aggravated Burglary-Aggravated Sexual BatteryEfforts to capture him remain ongoing. Spot him? Call 911! pic.twitter.com/Ad2PpO8aRg— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 8, 2019
Johnson is a Correctional Administrator for the Tennessee Department of Correction and lived at a state-owned house near the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, where Watson was being held.
The TBI issued a Blue Alert for Watson after he was discovered missing during a head count at the prison after Johnson was discovered dead around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Prison officials went to Johnson's home to check on her after she missed a scheduled meeting with the warden of the prison.
UPDATE: Thanks to the generosity of the @FBI and @USMarshalsHQ, who have contributed $10,000 each, the total reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of Curtis Watson stands at $52,500. pic.twitter.com/RHYTTExRDE— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 8, 2019
“I want to extend my condolences to the family of Miss Johnson, who was a victim of this homicide,” TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said during Wednesday's press conference. “Tonight, the TDOC is working closely with the TBI, the Department of Safety and local law enforcement agencies to search and to find Curtis Ray Watson, who is listed as the person of interest in this homicide.
“Rest assured we will find this offender and bring justice to the family of Debra Johnson.”
After finding Johnson dead inside her home from foul play, the prison was placed on lockdown and an official inmate count was conducted. Watson was found missing from a work detail.
Watson has also been added to the TBI’s Most Wanted list.
The TBI, at the request of District Attorney General Mark Davidson, is investigating Johnson’s death.
Johnson, 64, is a 38-year veteran of the Department of Correction. She was the Correctional Administrator for West Tennessee, overseeing the Mark Luttrell Transition Center in Memphis, the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, and the West Tennessee State Penitentiary and Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center, both located in Henning.
She began her career as a correctional officer in January 1981. During her career she also served as correctional sergeant, deputy warden, warden and her current position as Correctional Administrator.
The Department of Correction owns 8-12 homes on the prison property for administrators to reside.
Watson was a minimum custody offender assigned to a job of farm laborer at the prison. He was serving a 15-year sentence on an especially aggravated kidnapping conviction in Henry County in 2013. His sentence was due to expire in 2025.
He had previously been convicted of aggravated child abuse out of Carroll County. That sentence expired in 2011.
Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said in a press conference in Nashville that Watson had had no disciplinary action against him since 2007. Prior to 2007, he was disciplined for not reporting to his assigned duties and classes.
NEW: Curtis Watson has a circular shaped tattoo on the left side of his neck. We are efforting a clear image of this tattoo. Included in this post are few of his other tattoos documented by TDOC. If you see Watson call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND. pic.twitter.com/n0PjB9T5zv— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 10, 2019
Watson left the prison area on a tractor. Authorities found the tractor about a mile from the prison facility.
Watson stands 5’11”, weighs 140 pounds with brown eyes and a long grey beard. He has a variety of tattoos across his body. He is considered dangerous.
Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said Watson has family in the county and surrounding areas. Henry County is working with local and federal authorities on the search. They have no information at this time that Watson is in Henry County.
UPDATE: We are releasing two of Curtis Watson’s previous mug shots from his TDOC incarceration, in case he altered the appearance of his facial hair after his escape yesterday. If you see him, do not approach. Call 911.Thanks for helping us to spread the word! pic.twitter.com/4EhBnEK9J6— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 8, 2019
Belew is advising all residents in northwest Tennessee and Henry County to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings, lock their doors, if you see him call 911 and do not approach him.
Thursday morning, Marshall County, TN Schools were placed on soft lockdown following unsubstantiated reports that Watson was in the area. Police have disputed these reports.
We are aware of numerous reports of sightings of Curtis Watson across the state, including in Marshall County. At this time, there have been no confirmed sightings of the wanted fugitive. We will keep you posted here on new details as we are able to do so! pic.twitter.com/9D3oxD74aZ— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 8, 2019
This is the third time the TBI has issued a Blue Alert in the history of the program, which dates back to 2011. The last time an alert was issued was during the search for Steven Wiggins, who is accused of killing Dickson County Sheriff Sgt. Daniel Baker in Dickson County.
TBI also said the FBI and US Marshals will be contributing $10,000 each for an award worth $52,500 for information leading to Watson's capture.
BLUE ALERT: We need your help to find Curtis Ray Watson, an escapee of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.Watson is also a person-of-interest in the homicide of a Tennessee Department of Correction employee today.Call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND if you see him! pic.twitter.com/22sQJ4vDO7— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 7, 2019
ADDITIONAL PICTURES: Here are more pictures of Curtis Watson's tattoos. He's considered extremely dangerous.If you spot him, call 911 or 1-800-TBI-FIND immediately! pic.twitter.com/S6NDOvOYQB— TBI (@TBInvestigation) August 7, 2019