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Cairo to memorialize 2 slain in botched robbery

CAIRO, Ill. - A southern Illinois city where two bank workers were killed during a botched May robbery is planning to memorialize the victims.

Two pink granite benches to be placed in Cairo's Halliday Park will be etched with the names of Anita Joe Grace of Olive Branch and Nita Jo Smith of Wickliffe, Ky., the (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reported Thursday. The attack's survivor, also a bank employee, will be honored with a tree and marker.

"So many people wanted to do something to honor them and their families," Monica Smith, the city's librarian, said of the remembrance project being headed by the Cairo Public Library's board. "We brainstormed ideas and decided on Halliday Park because it is near the bank and in a very public spot."

Authorities say Grace and Smith - both 52 - and the third bank worker where confronted May 15 by a gunman as the women emerged from Cairo's First National Bank after closing it for the day, then were forced back inside. Police found the victims in a break room, court documents say. Police later that day arrested 30-year-old James Watts, who is charged in federal court with attempted armed bank robbery resulting in death.

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