- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

BENTON, Ill. (AP) - A man accused of fatally stabbing two Illinois bank workers and critically wounding a third during a botched robbery has pleaded guilty to charges.

James Nathaniel Watts pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the May 2014 holdup at the First National Bank branch in Cairo. The 32-year-old Watts entered the plea in U.S. District Court in exchange for the prosecutor taking the death penalty off the table when he is sentenced on May 25.

Authorities allege Watts was armed with a gun and wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he confronted three female employees as they emerged from the bank after closing.

Killed were 52-year-old Anita Grace of Olive Branch, Illinois, and 52-year-old Nita Jo Smith of Wickliffe, Kentucky. A 23-year-old woman survived.

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