Metro-East News

Men face death penalty in fatal Cairo bank robbery attempt

A seven-count superseding indictment has been returned in Benton against three people in connection with an attempted robbery of First National Bank in Cairo on May 15, 2014 that resulted in the deaths of two bank employees.

A release from U.S. Attorney Donald Boyce stated count one of the indictment was returned against James Nathaniel Watts, 32, of Cairo. It alleged that during the robbery attempt, Watts killed two employees and critically injured a third.

A 2014 report from KFVS stated Anita J. Grace, 52, of Olive Branch, Illinois, and Nita J. Smith, 52, of Wickliffe, Kentucky, were stabbed to death during the robbery attempt. Grace was the bank’s president.

The third employee, a 23-year-old woman, was also stabbed. She survived the attack, KFVS reported.

Count two of the indictment, the release stated, was returned against Watts alleging that he was a convicted felon in possession of a “.380 caliber semi-automatic pistol which had previously traveled in interstate commerce.”

The third count of the superseding indictment alleges that Otha D. Watkins, Illinois of Cairo aided and abetted Watts in the fatal bank robbery attempt. The fourth count, also against Watkins, alleged that the 33-year-old man knowingly lied to a FBI special agent.

The fifth count alleges that Watkins owned a Ruger 9mm pistol as a convicted felon.

Watkins and Watts did conspire, alleges the sixth count, on or about May 12, 2014 to “to commit robbery, which robbery would obstruct, delay, and affect interstate commerce, in that they agreed to take United States currency belonging to McDonalds restaurant, in Charleston, Missouri” in the presence of employees and against their will by brandishing a firearm.

The last count of the indictment alleges that Sharita S. Tipler, 30, of Ullin, gave the Ruger 9mm pistol to Watkins with reasonable cause to believe that he was a convicted felon.

If convicted, both Watkins and Watts face either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Tipler faces up to 10 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release.

Watts and Watkins have been in custody since mid-May 2014. Tipler was arrested Monday and has a bail hearing Tuesday in Benton.