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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Illinois

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cairo Man Sentenced to 23 Years in Prison for Assisting in the 2014 Attempted Armed Robbery of First National Bank in Cairo and Other Related Crimes


Otha Don Watkins, III, 35, of Cairo, Illinois, was sentenced today in United States District Court in Benton to 23 years in prison for assisting James Nathanial Watts in the May 15, 2014, attempted armed robbery of the First National Bank in Cairo and for other related crimes, announced Donald S. Boyce, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Watkins admitted that he assisted Watts in the planning of the robbery, drove him to the bank on May 15, and served as a lookout while communicating with Watts via a hand-held radio. After failing to obtain any money, Watts killed long-time bank employees Anita Grace and Nita Jo Smith and seriously injured a third employee.

Watkins had previously pled guilty in January 2018 to assisting Watts in that offense and to making false statements to the FBI during the investigation of the attempted bank robbery, possessing a stolen firearm, and conspiring with Watts to commit robberies that interfered with interstate commerce. That conspiracy included both the attempted robbery of the First National Bank and the successful May 2014 armed robbery of over $12,000 from a McDonald’s Restaurant in Charleston, Missouri.

The 23-year sentence was imposed consecutively to a 155-month federal prison sentence which Watkins was already serving for the armed robbery of another McDonald’s restaurant in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in October 2014. According to information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Watkins will not finish serving that sentence until January 7, 2026. Watkins will begin serving the 23-year sentence imposed today after that date.

In addition to the term of imprisonment, Watkins was ordered to pay a total of $12,062.51 in restitution to the owner of the Charleston McDonalds and its insurer. Watkins was also placed on a five-year term of supervised release to follow his incarceration. After sentencing, Watkins was returned to the custody of the United States Marshal to await his return to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

James Watts was previously sentenced in May 2017 to life in prison plus ten years for his role in these crimes.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Illinois State Police with the assistance of numerous other law enforcement agencies in Illinois and Missouri.

Violent Crime
Updated March 21, 2018