Fingerprint on car a match, lab tech says
Victim’s extensive injuries detailed on Day 4 of testimony
MORRISON – A fingerprint found on the window of Russell Reed’s car was from Nicholas T. Sheley’s right index finger, a forensic scientist testified Thursday.
Much of the fourth day’s testimony centered around evidence collected from the Buick, as well as the injuries to Reed’s body, which was found in the trunk 3 days after he was killed.
Prosecutors say Sheley, 33, killed the 93-year-old farmer on June 23, 2008, in Reed’s farmhouse on Blue Goose Road, then took his wallet, his checkbook and the car.
The Buick, and the body, were found June 26, 2008, in the driveway of a house at 1732 Griswold Ave., where the girlfriend of Sheley’s brother was living.
A witness testified earlier this week that she saw Sheley driving the Buick the night of June 23.
Crime scene investigator Rebecca Hooks testified Thursday that she processed the interior of the Buick at the Sterling Fire Department, where it was towed. She found a water bottle on the passenger side floor, and swabbed its neck for DNA.
She also dusted the interior, where she found the fingerprint on the driver’s window, Hooks testified.
The swab and print were analyzed at the state police crime lab in Rockford.
Lab worker Patrick Powers, who specialized in latent fingerprint analysis, said he compared the print to a fingerprint card made after Sheley’s arrest on July 1, 2008.
Powers noted several similarities between the print on the window and that of Sheley’s right index finger.
Defense attorney Jeremy Karlin, however, noted that the print was distorted and pointed to a smudge and “bubbles” that may have been caused by the tape used to lift the print from the window.
Powers said the spots he was able to clearly analyze were enough to find a match between the two prints.
Forensic pathologist Scott Denton performed the autopsy on Reed on June 27, 2008, in Peoria.
Denton detailed the wounds Reed suffered: A tear on the left side of his chest, five fractured ribs, and a collapsed left lung; six blows to the back of his head, which caused bleeding under his scalp, bruises to the left side of his face, and fractures of his cheek and orbital bones and his skull; and defensive wounds on the back of his left hand and on his right elbow, which was dislocated.
In all, Denton estimated that there had been at least 18 blows to Reed’s body caused by “severe force” from a blunt object.
Prosecutors have not said what was used to kill Reed.
Denton also estimated that based on the amount of decomposition, Reed had been dead for at least 3 days.
A few hours after Reed’s body was found, a 1999 Lincoln Continental was reported stolen from a home in rural Rock Falls.
The owner, Robert Carrier, testified Thursday that Sheley had rented a property from him and that he sometimes helped him with maintenance around his other properties.
Carrier said he came home from work between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and found that the car, which he usually parked next to the house with the keys in it, was missing.
Rock Falls Police Detective Veronica Jaramillo testified that she was off duty about 8:30 p.m. that night, stopped at the intersection of 12th Avenue and U.S. Route 30, when she saw a white Lincoln drive past her. She recognized Sheley as the driver and called the police department.
About 9:40 p.m., Sheley bought gas for the Lincoln at a station on Galena Avenue in Dixon, a clerk testified.
Dixon Police Officer Tony Quadraro was on patrol around 10 p.m. when he spotted the Lincoln southbound on Galena Avenue Bridge, he testified.
He and two other squad cars began following it; when they tried to pull it over, the driver sped off, running many traffic lights and stop signs until he lost sight of it, he said.
Prosecutors say Sheley ditched the car in a field near Harmon, then stole a red 1999 Jeep Cherokee from a home on Van Petten Road in Dixon. The SUV later was found in the Quad Cities.
Also Thursday, a juror was dismissed because she broke a bone. On Wednesday, a juror was let go after attorneys and Meersman learned that he has a hearing Monday in a pending child support case that would conflict with the trial.
Two of the three alternates have filled the vacancies.
Sheley, 33, of Sterling, killed Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, for which he his is serving life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors say he is the second of eight people killed in a weeklong spree. In addition to Reed, he killed Brock Branson, 29, his fiancee Kilynna Blake, 20, her 2-year-old son Dayan, and Kenneth Ulve, 25, all of Rock Falls, on June 28; and Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes in Festus, Mo., on June 29, they say. All seven bodies were found June 30.
The trial continues today.
Follow SVM reporter Tara Becker's trial coverage at shawurl.com/sheley or at TaraBecker_SVM on Twitter.