Cairo Suspect Released From Prison 2 Weeks Ago

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

CAIRO -- A Cairo man with a long history of crime and a short time out of prison is tied to a deadly armed bank robbery.

James Nathaniel Watts, 29, was arrested Thursday night after a high speed police chase in Alexander County. Watts currently faces a federal weapons charge for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

His arrest came after an attempted robbery at First National Bank in Cairo. 

Watts is accused of stopping three female employees as they tried to leave the bank. They were forced back inside around 5:15 Thursday evening. 
 
An FBI Agent's testimony explains Watts wasn't able to get money. 
 
Illinois State Police say two of the employees, 52-year-old Nita Smith and 52-year-old Anita Grace, were fatally stabbed. The third 23-year-old employee was critically injured.
 
Watts was then seen on surveillance video leaving with the victims' purses and one of the women's SUV. 
 
Around 6:55 p.m. Thursday, police spotted that SUV. Watts tried to flee and drove at speeds topping 100 miles per hour. 
 
Watts then climbed onto a railroad trestle near the Ohio River and engaged in a standoff with police. He was taken into custody around 9:00 p.m.
 
The affidavit states that Watts had a .380-caliber pistol in the front pocket of his sweatshirt. 
 
As of Friday evening, Watts was being held in Williamson County.

Court records and Illinois Department of Corrections dates for Watts show a criminal history that stretches back more than a decade in both Missouri and Illinois.

Watts was convicted on two counts of forgery in Cape Girardeau County in 2005.
 
In Sept. 2006, he was sentenced for aggravated sexual abuse of a child in Alexander County. Watts spent less than three years in an Illinois prison.
 
Watts got out in Jan. 2009. However, in July of that same year, more forgery charges caused him to violate his parole.
 
His forgery conviction would send him behind bars again for an eight year sentence. Watts was eligible for parole in Dec. 2013 but didn't leave Menard Correctional Center in Chester until Apr. 29th of this year.
 
You can view the full criminal complaint against Watts here.
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