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Man accused in deadly botched holdup arraigned

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:48 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:49 p.m. CST

BENTON – A southern Illinois man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to a botched, deadly bank robbery.

Twenty-nine-year-old James Watts was arraigned Tuesday in Benton, a week after the Cairo man was indicted on charges of attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death. The charges include special findings making the death penalty possible if he’s convicted, though prosecutors are weighing whether to seek that punishment.

Watts was arrested May 15, hours after Anita Jo Grace of Olive Branch and Nita Jo Smith of Wickliffe, Kentucky, were found stabbed at Cairo’s First National Bank. Both women died. A third worker survived.

Watts is accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm and remains jailed without bond.

Watts’ trial is tentatively set to begin Aug. 4.

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