Cairo Bank Robbery Suspect in Federal Court

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Andy Shofstall

FRANKLIN CO. -- Prosecutors are building their case against the Cairo man tied to last week's failed holdup at First National Bank. Court records also show a previous connection between the suspect and one of the victims. 

James Watts was in federal court in Benton Tuesday afternoon. The 29-year-old learned he'll remain behind bars as his case goes to a grand jury.
 
Watts didn't say much during the short appearance. He only answered questions from the judge, and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
 
The Assistant District Attorney asked that Watts be held without bond and claimed the government's case was strong. An FBI Special Agent could also be called to testify that Watts was arrested Thursday night carrying a gun.
 
That's the same evening an armed suspect forced three First National Bank of Cairo employees back inside the building. The man stabbed two of the women to death and injured the third. He then took off with their purses and an SUV.
     
Investigators say Watts then led police on a high speed chase in the stolen vehicle. He climbed onto a train trestle and threatened to shoot himself. 
 
On Tuesday, News 3 also learned of a previous connection between Watts and one of the victims. According to the Alexander County Circuit Clerk's Office, 52-year-old bank manager Anita Grace went to police in 2009. She accused Watts of cashing stolen checks. Watts later pleaded guilty in that forgery case and was sent to Menard prison.
 
A federal judge has now ordered that Watts stay in jail until he is indicted. The next step will be for a grand jury to look at the case and decide what charges to hand down. 
 
Funeral Services for Grace were held Tuesday in Olive Branch. The other victim, Nita Smith, will be laid to rest Wednesday in Wickliffe, Kentucky.
 
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