Escaped inmate’s former Henry County neighbor: ‘I was scared to death’

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HENRY COUNTY, Tenn. — Curtis Ray Watson’s lengthy criminal history in Tennessee reveals run-ins with the law that began with a conviction for driving under the influence in 1999.

He continued those run-ins in both Carroll and Henry counties until something happened in his former duplex on Lincoln Street in Paris in 2012.

"When I heard what happened I was shocked,” said Joey Lackey, who lives right next door. He remembered seeing Watson and his wife but never speaking with them.

"They didn’t associate with nobody here. Didn’t know him. See him go in and out. Her come in and out,” Lackey said.

That’s why he was disturbed when law enforcement officials picked up Watson for aggravated kidnapping. He eventually pleaded guilty, admitting to threatening his wife with a metal baseball bat and keeping her in the home for three straight days.

“I was scared to death. I was glad they found him and put him in the prison,” said Barbara Cook, another former neighbor.

Watson did go to prison, to West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County, where he stayed until Wednesday, when state officials say he killed a corrections employee and then used a tractor to escape.

He was on the run for a second day Thursday, and state officials including Gov. Bill Lee pleaded for leads from the public, offering a $52,000 reward for his capture.

Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said he'd spoken with Watson’s relatives in the Paris area and they are all cooperating with law enforcement. He knows there's a chance he could make his way back to Paris, so he and all law enforcement throughout West Tennessee are asking people to be extra vigilant.

Still, neighbors like Lackey and Cook feel uneasy.

"I hope he don't come back, that's all I can say," Cook said.

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