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Local

Closing arguments today in Sheley trial

Accused killer declines to testify as both sides rest

MORRISON – Nicholas T. Sheley’s first Whiteside County murder case soon will be in the hands of the jury.

Closing arguments are set to begin this morning, the seventh day of evidence in the trial of the 33-year-old Sterling man.

After the prosecution rested Monday, Sheley chose not to testify in his own defense.

He also declined to testify last year when he was tried and convicted in Knox County in the murder of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg.

Sheley’s attorney, Jeremy Karlin of Galesburg, called no witnesses. He did read portions of Sheley’s wife’s testimony to a grand jury before he, too, rested his case.

Karlin said Holly Sheley’s testimony last week contradicted what she told the grand jury in July 2008, after her husband was accused of killing eight people the month before.

Nick Sheley is being tried on eight counts of first-degree murder and one count each of home invasion and residential burglary in the death of Russell Reed, 93, of rural Sterling.

Prosecutors say Sheley killed Reed on June 23, 2008, in his Blue Goose Road home and stole his checkbook, wallet, and 2003 Buick Century.

Reed’s body was found 3 days later in the trunk of the Buick, which was parked in Jenna Henson’s driveway; at the time, she was the girlfriend of Sheley’s brother, Joshua.

Reed was the first of the eight people killed. Sheley also is charged in the deaths of a child and three adults in Rock Falls, and an Arkansas couple in Festus, Mo.

He is serving life without parole in Randall’s death.

After prosecutors rested Monday, Karlin asked for, but was denied, a finding of not guilty by the judge.

Such requests for a directed verdict are typical after the prosecution rests. They usually are based on the argument that the prosecution did not present enough evidence to warrant a conviction, and seldom are granted.

Karlin said Sheley should be acquitted of home invasion and residential burglary because prosecutors failed to prove he was in Reed’s home without permission.

Whiteside County State’s Attorney Gary Spencer argued that there is a “reasonable inference” that Sheley entered Reed’s home without permission, based on the evidence presented in court.

While the jury was not present, Karlin said Holly Sheley’s testimony was inconsistent. She testified last week that she and her husband quarreled on June 23, 2008, after going to Rockford to get a title loan on their 1996 Cadillac.

They argued, she said, over money and Sheley’s drinking. She said that she bought Sheley alcohol that day and that drinking usually led to his crack cocaine use.

She told the grand jury that they argued that day about moving into a new place and who would watch their two children.

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