Cairo bank robbery murder victims identified

CAIRO, Ill. - A man suspected in violent bank robbery Thursday night has been charged on a weapons violation.

U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton with the Southern District of Illinois has charged 30-year-old James Nathaniel Watts with being a felon in possession of a weapon.

According to the affidavit, three female employees of First National Bank in Cairo were approached by a suspect as they left the branch around 5:15 p.m. The suspect forced the employees back into the branch in an attempt to rob it.

Illinois State Police say all three employees were stabbed by the suspect and found in the branch's break room. Anita J. Grace, 52, of Olive Branch, Illinois, and Nita J. Smith, 52, of Wickliffe, Kentucky died from their injuries. A third victim, a 23-year-old female, remains in critical condition. Her name will not be released.

Because the branch was already closed, the robbery was unsuccessful. Court documents state the suspect can be seen on surveillance video taking purses from the employees and leaving in one of their vehicles, described as a 2014 Buick SUV.

A spokesperson for ISP says officers used "intelligence and technology" to track the vehicle down on Interstate 57 near the Canadian Northern railroad tracks around 6:55 p.m. After a high speed chase reaching more than 100 miles per hour, the SUV was ditched and the suspect ran into the woods.

At least 18 law enforcement agencies were involved in the manhunt for the suspect. Around 9 p.m. Watts was taken into custody. Police say they determined he was driving the SUV during the pursuit. When he was arrested, police say they found a Colt MK .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt.

Watts is not charged with murder or robbery at this time. Those crimes remain under investigation.

On May 15, 2005 Watts was convicted of two counts of forgery and was sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence was suspended and he was given a five year term of probation. On Aug. 31, 2007 his probation was revoked and the seven year prison sentence was reinstated.

If convicted of being a felon in possession of a weapon, he faces up to 10 years in prison. He remains in custody in Marion, Illinois.

According to FBI crime statistics, between 2003 and 2011, a total of 24 people have been killed throughout the United States in bank robberies, with the majority of them being bank guards.


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