Escaped inmate Curtis Watson in custody after manhunt

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Escaped inmate Curtis Ray Watson has been taken into custody, the Tennessee Department of Correction announced around 11 a.m. Sunday, ending a five-day search.

Neighbors said Watson was found in a bean field on Caroline Street, less than a half mile from where he was captured on surveillance video about eight hours earlier and about 10 miles from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, where he escaped Wednesday. 

“He had made the comment he knew he wasn’t getting away because of the number of law enforcement present,” District Attorney Mark Davidson said.

One man says he watched investigators force Watson out at gunpoint. About 300 were involved in the manhunt.

The TBI says Watson peacefully surrendered and seemed relieved that it was over.

"I can assure you that our office will be resolved to see that he is put back where he can never escape again and harm anybody in our communities," Davidson said.

After his arrest, Watson was taken to the hospital for treatment. He had mosquito bites and ticks that had to be removed, and injuries to his feet from being wet for days.

Watson, a minimum security inmate at the prison, is accused of killing and sexually assaulting prison administrator Debra Johnson at her home on prison grounds and escaping on a tractor Wednesday.

He will be arraigned on those charges this week.

“It will not end until we get justice for Debra Johnson and her family,” Davidson said.

A home security camera captured images of Watson opening an outdoor refrigerator at a home in the 500 block of Graves Avenue in Henning. It was the first conformed sighting of Watson.

Investigators say he was wearing camouflage clothes he stole from someone’s home.

Harvey Taylor, the homeowner whose Ring camera caught the video of Watson overnight, said he’s relieved the accused killer was caught and believes he and his family deserve the $57,000 reward for providing video of the only confirmed sighting that led to him.

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