Escapee wanted for warden’s murder captured after 5-day manhunt in West Tennessee

 Escapee wanted for warden’s murder captured after 5-day manhunt in West Tennessee

The West Tennessee convict accused of killing a corrections administrator before escaping last week was captured Sunday morning 10 miles from the prison.

In a news conference Sunday afternoon, TBI Director David Rausch said Watson put his hands up and was arrested as he came out of a soybean field Sunday morning after a five-day manhunt.

The field is near a home where Watson was seen on a surveillance camera overnight Sunday. The homeowners called police after one of them recognized Watson from police-issued photos.

Photos provided by the residents’ camera show Watson dressed in camouflage bib overalls and a hat and carrying a camp backpack. Dozens of officers mobilized in the area after the sighting.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Mark Davidson says Watson will be arraigned this week on charges of first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated sexual battery, and escape. Davidson said the death penalty will be under consideration.

According to a TBI affidavit, Watson had been released temporarily for mowing duties Wednesday morning at 7:00, and had access to a golf cart and a tractor. As a “trusty” at the prison, he was allowed to use the equipment and had to wear a reflective vest while working on prison grounds.

Phone records show Department of Corrections Administrator Debra Johnson was talking on the phone that morning at 8:10, just 20 minutes before corrections workers saw Watson in a golf cart at her house. An affidavit shows Watson drove away from the prison sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 on a tractor.

When Johnson didn’t show up for work, co-workers discovered her body at her home at 11:30. The medical examiner declared her death a homicide by strangulation.

Watson had been serving a 15-year sentence after pleading guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping in Henry County. Watson illegally confined his wife while using an aluminum baseball bat in July 2012. His sentence began in 2013 and was set to expire in 2025.

Watson had previously been convicted of aggravated child abuse in Carroll County. His sentence in that case expired in 2011.

Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew, and five other officers and two K9s from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office were among law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt.