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June 2012
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Victims of bank holdup remembered

Associated Press

CAIRO, Ill. - Residents remembered a bank branch president and a teller who were killed during a botched holdup as kind and loving.

"They definitely won't be forgotten, and the best parts of them will live on with each one of us and that's what's going to make this community stronger," said the Rev. Jimmy Ellis, pastor of Cairo's First Missionary Baptist Church.

Anita J. Grace, 52, of Olive Branch, and Nita J. Smith, 52, of Wickliffe, Kentucky, were stabbed to death in the robbery attempt Thursday at the First National Bank branch. A third person was critically injured.

James Watts, 29, has been charged on a federal weapons count and likely will face additional charges.

Cairo resident Joe Griggs said he got to know Smith and Grace through being a customer at the bank.

"I think if you wanted a better soul, you'd have to go a long way to find a better soul than those two people," he said.

The robbery attempt took place after 5 p.m. Thursday when a gunman confronted the women as they emerged from the bank, then forced them back inside. Police found the victims in a break room, court documents say. Watts was arrested later Thursday.

Crystal Day, of Olive Branch, remembers Grace as someone "who had no enemies."

Grace worked for First National Bank for 27 years and was the president of the Cairo branch. She is survived by her husband, two children and one grandchild.

Smith, a longtime teller, has been described by her cousin as a travel and outdoors enthusiast who, along with her husband, recently welcomed their first grandchild.

"They were just the perfect family, and this is just a nightmare," said Morrissa Clanahan, also of Olive Branch.

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