Prison officers testify during hearing in inmate escape

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By ADRIAN SAINZ
Associated Press

RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) – Prison officers say a Tennessee inmate charged with killing a corrections administrator before he escaped a prison was seen riding a tractor outside a lawn mowing shop at the facility about a half-hour before a search for him began.

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Curtis Ray Watson appeared before a judge during a hearing in a Lauderdale County court on Wednesday. A judge is expected to rule whether there’s enough evidence to present the case to a grand jury, which will consider whether to formally indict Watson on murder and escape charges.

Authorities say Watson was on lawn care duties at West Tennessee State Penitentiary near Henning on Aug. 7. Investigators say Watson sexually assaulted and killed corrections administrator Debra Johnson at her home on prison grounds.

Authorities say Watson escaped on the tractor. He was found four days later, after an intense manhunt.

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