The inmate, Curtis Ray Watson, was captured roughly 10 miles from the prison, the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, in Henning, Tennessee, about an hour’s drive northeast of Memphis. Officials said he had sexually assaulted and killed a veteran prison executive and then fled on a tractor on Wednesday.
Watson looked “relieved to be over with his run,” David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said at a news conference. “He knew he wasn’t getting away because of the number of law enforcement that was present.”
Just before 11am, Watson, with his hands raised, knelt down as a correctional officer and a parole officer took him into custody, officials said.
Authorities were at the “right place at the right time,” said Tony Parker, the commissioner of the state Department of Correction.
Both Bird and Brown were at the news conference, but declined to speak. A witness, Alexia Lebel, 38, recounted the capture, which she watched from across the road.
Ms Lebel, an employee at the Dollar General Store in Henning, said she witnessed Watson’s arrest through the shop window.
She watched Watson, 44, who was serving a 15-year prison sentence for felony charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated child abuse, approach a car before one of the women came out and took him into custody.
Immediately after Watson was apprehended, Ms Lebel said, it felt as if the entire community of Henning, which has a population of less than 1,000 people, came out.
“Over a hundred people came to see,” Ms Lebel said. “Everybody started going on foot, across the street and over the hill. All the cars started lining up.”
Harvey and Ann Taylor were awakened by their security system, which alerted them that someone was behind their home on Graves Avenue. They reviewed the footage and saw a man looking in their outdoor refrigerator, recognised him as the escapee and then called 911, they said at the news conference.
Within 30 minutes of the call, hundreds of law enforcement officers descended and conducted both ground and air searches, Mr Rausch said.
The Department of Correction posted an alert that said Watson had changed clothes and was wearing camouflage overalls and a hat and carrying a backpack.
Moments after the capture, the bureau posted a video of Watson, in handcuffs, being placed in a police vehicle, which was surrounded by onlookers.
Watson was taken to a hospital. There was no indication anyone had helped him in the escape, Mr Rausch said.
On the day of his escape, Watson had been released from the prison for his work assignment mowing lawns, according to officials and court records. As a jail trustee, he had access to prison equipment, including a golf cart and a tractor.
Between 9 and 10am, Watson drove away on a tractor, according to court records.
Officials say Watson killed the prison executive, Debra Kaye Johnson, who had been with the Department of Correction for 38 years and who lived in a state-owned house on the prison grounds.
Her body was found at 11.30am at her home with ligature marks and a cord wrapped around her neck. The medical examiner’s office determined that she had been strangled and sexually assaulted.
“I’ve never met someone more dedicated,” Mr Parker said. “She served us and the people of Tennessee well.”
New York Times