BENTON, IL (Heartland News at 9) -
James Nathaniel Watts has pleaded guilty to charges in connection to a deadly attempted bank robbery in Cairo, Illinois.
Watts pleaded guilty on Thursday, March 16 to charges of attempted bank robbery resulting in death and being a felon in possession of a gun.
He killed Anita Grace and Nita Smith at First National Bank in Cairo on May 15.
According to court documents, on May 15, 2014, at around 4:45 p.m., Watts approached three employees as they left the bank after closing.
Watts’ covered his face with a folded white pillowcase and armed himself with a handgun and a hunting knife.
Watts forced the three employees 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.
According to court documents, the employees were unable to open the vault because it was equipped with a time lock that could not be opened until the next morning.
Watts then forced the three employees into the bank’s break room where he killed Anita Grace and Nita Smith and tried to kill a third bank employee.
Nita Smith died at the bank. Anita Grace died from her injuries shortly after being taken to the hospital.
While critically injured, the third employee survived and was able to call 911 after Watts had fled the bank.
Police captured Watts following a high-speed chase and manhunt.
Authorities found him hiding in the structure of a railroad trestle bridge that spans the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.
As part of his plea deal, the U.S. Attorney agreed to take the death penalty off the table.
Instead, Watts will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During sentencing on May 25, the surviving victim and family members of the other victims will be allowed to testify.
Two others, Otha Watkins and Sharita Tipler, were recently charged in connection to the case.
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