Authorities are searching for a Tennessee convict who officials say is a person of interest in the death of a corrections employee and escaped a prison on a tractor.

The tractor used by Curtis Ray Watson, 44, was found about 1.6 km away from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on Wednesday, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said. The facility is about 97 km from Memphis.

Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said 64-year-old administrator Debra Johnson was found dead in her home Wednesday. He said she lived in a property on site.

Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on an especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and worked at the prison as a farm labourer.

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