MORRISON – Nicholas T. Sheley was a “violent drunk” who often turned to crack cocaine, his drug of choice, when he had been drinking, his wife testified Tuesday.
By June 2008, he was spending $300 a day on the drug, Holly Sheley said.
Breaking down on the witness stand, she testified that she was worried for his safety because “he was looking like crap,” she said, adding that she tried to get him into a treatment program.
Sheley’s desperation for money to buy crack is why he bludgeoned 93-year-old Russell Reed in his rural Sterling home on June 23, 2008, and stole his checkbook and wallet, prosecutors say.
Reed’s body was found 3 days later in the trunk of his 2003 Buick Century. The wallet and checkbook were found weeks later behind a local funeral home.
Holly Sheley, in a gray suit and glasses, was among five people to testify on the second day of Sheley’s trial. He is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, and home invasion and residential burglary in Reed’s death.
Nick Sheley, 33, of Sterling, also is charged with six other deaths and is serving life without parole in the murder of a 65-year-old Galesburg man. All eight were killed in a weeklong, two-state spree, prosecutors say.
Holly Sheley is in Ogle County Jail, charged with selling heroin to an informant in August. She also is charged with misusing a credit card in Lee County.
As she testified, she avoided eye contact with Sheley, who jotted down notes much of the day.
Prosecutors gave her immunity, meaning she cannot be prosecuted if she gives truthful testimony in the case.
According to Holly Sheley’s testimony:
The couple married May 10, 2008. Before that, they did some scrapping work with Sheley’s brother, Joshua, to earn extra money for the wedding.
At the time, she was on medical leave from her job at a poultry plant and Nick was doing construction work and odd jobs.
On at least two occasions before the wedding, the three went scrapping at Reed’s rural Sterling home on Blue Goose Road. Reed gave them an old freezer and a wagon to sell.
That June 23, the Sheleys drove to Rockford to get a $1,000 title loan on their green 1996 Cadillac, so they could move into a new home in Mount Morris.
They needed the loan because Sheley wasn’t getting construction work. She assumed he also was doing drugs, because he appeared “high and drunk” when he came home and money was disappearing from their bank account.
After getting the loan check, she bought her husband liquor, energy drinks, and beer, which he drank on the drive home. She later bought him more alcohol.
She said she didn’t want to, because when he drank, he became a “violent drunk” and used drugs.
“I know how he gets when he drinks,” she said.
The two argued about money and his drinking, and Sheley took off in the Cadillac. He had about $176 in cash and her cellphone.
The next day, Sheley’s sister Heidi told Holly that Nick might be at a house at 1732 Griswold Ave. That’s where Jenna Henson, Josh Sheley’s girlfriend, lived.
No one answered when she knocked on the door.
She noticed a Buick backed all the way into the driveway, and an energy drink can – the kind her husband was drinking the day before – caught her eye and she opened the passenger door. She didn’t touch or move anything, and left.
She later recognized the car as Reed’s. At the time, though, she was focused on finding her husband and her car.
The next day, she stopped by Henson’s house, and again no one was home. The car was still there, she testified.
Defense attorney Jeremy Karlin asked her whether it was “fair to say” that she didn’t know exactly how much crack Sheley was buying around that time.
She said she didn’t know how much he used when she wasn’t around.
Karlin also asked whether they made $9,000 to $10,000 scrapping and whether Sheley was regularly making money from construction and odd jobs.
She said that he turned in the scrap and collected the money, so she didn’t know how much that brought in, and that although she didn’t know how much he made from odd jobs, she knew he typically brought in $3,000 to $4,000 a month because she did their taxes.
“He hid a lot of it from me,” Holly testified.
Tom Merchie, a retired crime scene investigator for the state police, testified that he analyzed the blood stain patterns in Reed’s home on June 26, the day his sons reported him missing.
He noted large pools of dried blood on the carpet in the kitchen that had been concealed behind a step stool and a plastic bag.
There also was blood splatter on the wall and on a nearby cabinet, and a trail of blood that went through the kitchen, into the living room, and out onto an enclosed porch.
He also found trace amounts of blood on a sidewalk in between the house and garage and blood outside and inside the right side of the two-stall garage, Merchie said.
Reed’s son, Don, said that was the stall in which his father always parked his car.
Merchie testified that it was his opinion that a “bloody object” was “carried and drug” through the house and out to the garage and that the object was placed into the trunk of a car.
That object could have been a body, he said.
The trial will continue today. It is expected to last 2 weeks.