Curtis Watson indicted in alleged rape, murder of prison official during escape
WREG
Curtis Watson is led out of the courtroom after his hearing Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.

By Eryn Taylor, WREG

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Tenn. (WREG) -- Several months after escaping from the state penitentiary and allegedly killing a prison administrator, Curtis Watson has been indicted on 15 counts, including first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and felony escape.

WREG obtained the indictment documents early Tuesday morning.

The news comes several months after a probable cause hearing at which investigators first revealed what they say happened in August 2019 leading up to and after the death of Debra Johnson.

A correctional officer testified that Watson signed out around 7 a.m. on the morning of his escape and was eventually located by prison officials in a golf cart. He said that it wasn’t unusual to see Watson around this type of equipment considering the job he had at the time.

Several hours later, Watson went missing again, but this time on a large tractor.

During that time he was missing, authorities said Watson sexually assaulted and then murdered a prison administrator named Debra Johnson after taking off on the tractor. Her body was found 30 minutes after prison staff realized Watson was gone.

Trinity Minter, the warden for the women’s side of the penitentiary and a friend of Johnson, said she had texted with Johnson at 8:03 the morning she was killed.

When she heard Johnson hadn’t reported for work, Minter got keys from an administrator and went to Johnson’s home on prison grounds.

“I walked into the house ... and I could see Debra laying on the bed, with her right leg up, and her left leg down. I knew at that point, that something was really wrong,” Minter said.

She said Johnson wasn’t clothed from the waist down and had what looked like a black cellphone cord around her neck.

Watson was on the run for five days before authorities located him about 10 miles away in a bean field.

MORE: Curtis Watson indicted on 15 counts including first-degree murder, rape - WREG

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