HENNING, Tenn. (WMC) - Law enforcement says a local family’s tip helped bring prison escapee and wanted murderer Curtis Ray Watson into custody Sunday.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received 430 tips while they searched for Watson, but it was a Ring video that led to his capture.
Watson was arrested five days after he escaped without incident, coming out of a soybean field miles away from the prison.
Around 3 a.m. Sunday, Harvey and Ann Taylor woke up to an alert from their Ring surveillance camera that captured a video of Watson in their back carport going through an outdoor refrigerator.
“Once he closed the left side of the refrigerator door, my wife could see his face and recognized his beard. Similar to mine. She could see him and said, ‘that's him, that's him,’” said Harvey Taylor, resident.
Between 300 and 400 law enforcement officers descended on the area but Watson was gone.
Hours later, the Blair family said they spotted a frantic Watson near the edge of the woods.
“He turned around went back in the woods but he tripped and fell and he got up and went through the woods and ran,” said Lynn Gennesy.
Two female officers took Watson into custody without incident.
Watson was covered in ticks and mosquito bites after days on the run.
“He had made the comment that he knew he wasn’t getting away because the number of law enforcement that was present,” said Raush.
Watson escaped from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday morning.
“Four days of no sleep. It’s amazing what they got accomplished, the pressure they put on Watson,” said David Raush, TBI director.
The Tennessee Department of Correction says Watson sexually assaulted and killed 64-year-old Debra Johnson, a well-respected 38-year employee of the state, during his escape.
“I spoke with Debra Johnson's family before I arrived here this afternoon and they asked me to express their appreciation to everyone,” said Tony Parker, TDOC commissioner.
Watson is now a defendant again, charged with first degree murder, aggravated sexual battery, especially aggravated burglary and escape.
“We're looking at whether or not we might apply the death penalty or seek the death penalty in this case,” said Mark Davidson, District Attorney General.
As for the Taylors, they believe they should receive the $57,000 reward money for Watson’s arrest.
“I would think so,” said Harvey Taylor.
Officials say they don’t know if Watson was armed. They are searching the area and a backpack that he had.
They don’t believe he received any help. Everything he had, including different clothing, they believe he stole from local homeowners.
Watson could face the death penalty. He will make his first appearance in court later this week.