Cairo Bank Stabbing Suspect Could Face Death Penalty

(CAIRO, IL) — A 30-year-old Cairo man will face the death penalty in the federal case charging him with fatally stabbing two Southern Illinois bank workers and critically wounding a third during a botched bank robbery in Cairo. In a court filing on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said that if James Watts is convicted of attempted bank robbery resulting in death, the federal government intends to prove that his intentional killing of First National Bank President Anita Grace and employee Nita Smith are aggravating factors as basis for imposition of the death penalty. The document stated that Watts committed his offenses in “an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse of the victims,” that he committed the offenses “after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person” and that he acted to “intentionally kill and attempt to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode.” Watts, 30, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the May 15 holdup in Cairo. District Judge Phil Gilbert in December postponed the trial scheduled for January to August, at the request of Watts’ attorneys, to allow time for the federal government to determine whether it would seek the death penalty.