Metro-East News

Southern Illinois man pleaded guilty in double-fatal bank robbery

James Nathaniel Watts, 32, of Cairo, has pleaded guilty in connection with a double-fatal attempted robbery in May 2014 in Cairo.

According to a release from U.S. Attorney Donald Boyce, Watts will be sentenced for the fatal attempted armed robbery of the First National Bank in Cairo on May 25, 2014.

Watts covered his face with a folded white pillowcase and forced three employees in the bank’s parking lot back into the bank at gunpoint.

“Once inside, he bound each of the employees’ hands with zip ties as he attempted to gain entry to the vault,” the release stated.

The employees could not open the safe because of a time lock sealing the vault until morning. At that point, the release stated, he stabbed 52-year-olds Anita Grace and Nita Smith to death and attempted to kill Kaeley Price, 23, in the bank’s employee break room.

Price was critically injured but was able to call 911 once Watts left the bank.

Watts was taken into custody after a high-speed chase and manhunt. He was found hiding in the structure of a railroad trestle bridge that spans the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.

Watts faces a mandatory sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He has two co-defendants — Sharita S. Tipler, 30, of Ullin, and Otha D. Watkins, 33, both of Cairo.

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

Watkins also faces life in prison.