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Tenn. convict avoids death penalty, gets life without parole for prison official's rape, murder

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RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) — A convicted felon accused of raping and killing a Tennessee corrections administrator and then escaping from prison on a farm tractor has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Curtis Ray Watson received the sentence Monday after striking a deal with prosecutors, who initially had announced that they would seek the death penalty if he was convicted at trial.

Watson pleaded no contest to a charge of first-degree murder in the perpetration of a rape. He also pleaded no contest to aggravated rape, and guilty to seven additional charges, including aggravated burglary and escape.

The charges are in connection with the rape and slaying of Tennessee Department of Correction Administrator Debra Johnson on Aug. 7, 2019.

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