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Some autopsy photos allowed in Sheley case

DNA evidence also in; jury selection begins Monday

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 2:14 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 9:29 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Nicholas Sheley is brought in by Illinois Department of Corrections personnel for a pretrial hearing Wednesday in Whiteside County court in Morrison. A Whiteside County jury will be allowed to see some photos showing the extent of 93-year-old Russell Reed's injuries during Sheley's trial, which begins Monday, a judge ruled Wednesday. The judge also granted the prosecution's motion to admit DNA results from a cigarette found in Reed's home that it says are from Sheley.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Whiteside County State's Attorney Gary Spencer (front) argued successfully Wednesday to Judge F. Michael Meersman that some autopsy photographs should be shown at Sheley's trial as evidence of the severity of Russell Reed's injuries. Prosecutors say Reed was the first of Sheley's eight victims in a two-state killing spree that lasted a week in June 2008.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
Pathology expert John Denton testifies Wednesday during a pretrial hearing for murder defendant Nicholas Sheley in Whiteside County court in Morrison.

MORRISON – A Whiteside County jury can see some photos showing the extent of Russell Reed's injuries during Nicholas T. Sheley's upcoming murder trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

One by one, attorneys and Judge F. Michael Meersman went through some of the photographs state forensic pathologist John Denton will use to illustrate those injuries.

At the motions hearing, Denton testified that he conducted the autopsy on the 93-year-old rural Sterling man on June 29, 2008, at the Peoria County Coroner's Office.

Police found Reed's decomposing body 3 days earlier in the trunk of his 2003 Buick Century. He is the first of eight people Sheley is accused of beating to death in a two-state spree that last week in June.

Looking through the photos, Denton said Reed had a number of injuries, including severe skull fractures, a cut above his left eyebrow and his left chest, and six cuts to the back of his head from blunt trauma.

Several ribs were broken, a lung was collapsed and he had bruises and cuts on the back of his left hand and right elbow that were consistent with defensive wounds, Denton testified.

Sheley's attorney, Jeremy Karlin of Galesburg, objected to the "inflammatory" photos and said that showing them would only "arouse the passion" of the jury and prevent his client from getting a fair trial.

Whiteside County State's Attorney Gary Spencer argued that the photos will help Denton show the jury the time, cause, and "brutal nature" of Reed's death.

Meersman asked that one photo, which he said was "pretty gruesome," be cropped to show only specific injuries on Reed's face.

He also ruled that prosecutors can show the jury a "life" picture of Reed, photos of his body in the trunk of his car, and a photo of flies found on the rear seat shelf of Reed's car.

Jury selection begins Monday. Sheley, 33, of Sterling, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and several other felonies in Reed's death.

He is serving life in prison for murdering Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, believed to be the second victim. He also is charged is the deaths of a 2-year-old child and three adults in Rock Falls and an Arkansas couple killed in Festus, Mo.

Meersman said Wednesday that 240 Whiteside County residents will be called during jury selection. In addition to the 12 jurors, three alternates will be chosen.

Meersman also granted the prosecution's motion to admit DNA results from a cigarette found in Reed's home that it says are from Sheley.

Also Wednesday's hearing, Karlin told Meersman that he has subpoenaed the Illinois Department of Corrections for some of Sheley's medical records.

Karlin said Sheley was receiving medication for depression, anxiety, and insomnia and was switched to a new medication in the past 5 to 6 weeks that has not been as effective and is making it difficult for his client to focus.

Meersman agreed to issue a court order compelling IDOC to hand over Sheley's records.

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