Friends gather to remember bank teller killed in Cairo - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Friends gather to remember bank teller killed in Cairo

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Nita Smith was one of two women killed in an armed robbery at First National Bank in Cairo. (Source: Milner & Orr Funeral Home) Nita Smith was one of two women killed in an armed robbery at First National Bank in Cairo. (Source: Milner & Orr Funeral Home)
Family and friends honor Nita Smith at her funeral in Wickliffe, Ky. Family and friends honor Nita Smith at her funeral in Wickliffe, Ky.
Blue and white ribbons, the colors of First National Bank, blanket Cairo in honor of the three women stabbed in a violent attack. Blue and white ribbons, the colors of First National Bank, blanket Cairo in honor of the three women stabbed in a violent attack.
"We need to memorialize these two women and pray very hard for the third one," said Suzy Holland, a friend of the victims. (Source: Michelle A. Lacy-Abercrombie/Facebook) "We need to memorialize these two women and pray very hard for the third one," said Suzy Holland, a friend of the victims. (Source: Michelle A. Lacy-Abercrombie/Facebook)
Friends wait in line at the visitation for Anita Grace.  (Source: Michelle A. Lacy-Abercrombie/Facebook) Friends wait in line at the visitation for Anita Grace. (Source: Michelle A. Lacy-Abercrombie/Facebook)
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CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - Family and friends of a bank teller killed in a violent stabbing in Cairo on May 15 gathered in Wickliffe, Ky. on Wednesday.

Loved ones gathered at the First Baptist Church in Wickliffe to remember Nita Smith.

Anita J. Grace, 52, of Olive Branch, Ill., and Nita J. Smith, 52, of Wickliffe, Ky. were killed after they were stabbed.

A 23-year-old employee was also stabbed. As of late Sunday afternoon, May 18, she was released from the hospital. Her identity has not been released.

Family and friends of Anita J. Grace gathered in Tamms, Ill. on Tuesday to remember the bank president killed in a violent attack.

A stabbing at the bank on Thursday left two women dead and another fighting for her life.

A prayer vigil was held at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Cairo on Friday.

Senior Pastor Jimmy Ellis at First Missionary Baptist Church said Friday's vigil was the beginning to a long healing process, but one the town will go through together.

"Those are our friends, more like family," Ellis said. "And so it's very difficult. But I think that it was important so that we could try to gather ourselves as best we could and pray and encourage each other because this is what we've always done. We've always encouraged each other even in the dire times, and so this is where we draw our strength."

The crowed joined in prayer and song to honor Anita's life. People said she was a friend to everyone and just a kind soul.

"You weren't a stranger to her for that long," friend Claire Kenner said. "You come into her bank and she would greet you that way. You weren't just somebody in her business. I'm going to miss her so much and whenever I pass that building, I'm going to know she's not there."

While some found the strength to stand and talk about their love for Anita Grace, others found that words failed them.

"I'll miss her," friend Jean Ratliff said. "She was just one sweet person and all of the girls at the were, but Anita especially because she was a friend. Very concerned about everybody. For me, I was unable to get up and speak. That's why I didn't say anything in there because I would not have been able to get through it. She was kind of like a member of the family although she wasn't."

When the choir sang "we're gonna make it." It brought everyone to their feet. The pastor spoke of healing, but also forgiveness in a time of despair.

A moment of silence honored those victims in the attack.

Friends said Anita was very active in the community and loved her family deeply.

She was the branch president of the First National Bank in Cairo. She was employed by that bank for the past 27 years.

Anita Grace served on the boards of directors for numerous community organizations including: Olive Branch Area Community Development Corporation, Olive Branch Cemetery Association and the Dodge Memorial Library. She was a member of the Cairo Rotary Club.

She was also a member of the Alexander Free Will Baptist Church.

Blue and white ribbons, the colors of First National Bank, blanket Cairo in a somber remembrance of the two women killed in a violent attack.

Nita Smith was a member of First Baptist Church of Wickliffe for 30 years, and was a member of the Ruth Class. She worked as a Customer Service Representative for 13 years at First National Bank.

Visitation for Nita Smith will be held after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20 at the Milner & Orr Funeral Home of Wickliffe and after 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the church. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 21 at the First Baptist Church of Wickliffe with Rev. Lynn Releford. Burial will follow in Wickliffe City Cemetery.

James Nathaniel Watts, 29, is charged with felon in possession of a firearm. He was arrested after a high speed chase Thursday night in one of the victim's stolen cars.

Flowers and cards were placed in front of the bank by friends and family.

"The sense of innocence for a small town community has been shattered," said Pastor Jimmy Ellis Sr.

He had been at the bank just a few hours before it closed and says the women were joking and laughing.

He says he knew one of the women personally and he described her as truly a kind soul.

"Just a beautiful sweet lady and she will be missed," Pastor Ellis said. "But as I said that knew her or did business with her we are going to take that same type of attitude and move forward so her spirit will live on through those that she served and those that she loved."

He went on to say that Cairo will not be identified with this heinous act and that Cairo's identity will stay a well-knit community and that tragedy will not break the city.

"It's really a sad day here in Cairo," said Suzy Holland, one of the victim's friend. "I can't say enough. We need to memorialize these two women and pray very hard for the third one. We need to come together as this community and we need to pray really hard. They will get to the bottom of this. We have faith in our community."

"It's crazy because we (Cairo) already have a bad rap," said Tyrell Harris. "We're known for doing violence, I guess. That's what people claim. It was some scary stuff to hear."

Anita J. Grace and Walter Grace were married on February 14, 1981. She was a member of the Alexander Free Will Baptist Church, according to her obituary by Crain Funeral Home.

She was the Branch President of the First National Bank in Cairo. She was employed by that bank for the past 27 years. She served on the boards of directors for numerous community organizations: Olive Branch Area Community Development Corporation, Olive Branch Cemetery Association, and Dodge Memorial Library. She was a member of the Cairo Rotary Club. Grace is survived by her husband, mother, a daughter, a son, and a granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at Crain Funeral Home in Tamms. Graveside services will follow at 12:30 p.m. at Olive Branch Cemetery with Rev. Earnest Brown officiating. A dinner to follow the graveside service will be at Alexander Freewill Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Olive Branch Cemetery Association.

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