By Tara Becker tbecker@saukvalley.com 800-798-4085, ext. 570

Joyce takes down Liston

Her first priority will be the county’s second Sheley murder trial, she says

STERLING – Trish Joyce will take over the role of the county’s top prosecutor from the man who gave her her first job.

Joyce, a Democrat, beat Republican and Whiteside County Assistant State’s Attorney Pat Liston 13,651-7,092, or 66 percent to 44 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.

Joyce, 52, of Sterling, said she will be filling the “very big shoes” of Gary Spencer, who is retiring Nov. 30 after more than 30 years at the helm.

Spencer gave her her first job as an assistant state’s attorney in 1985, Joyce said, adding that she is grateful for his training, “and for letting me learn good, competent trial skills by learning from him.”

Surrounded by supporters, including Spencer, at the Latin American Social Club Tuesday night, Joyce noted the bipartisan support she received.

“I think the people recognized that I have the necessary credentials and I think they wanted somebody who has the experience necessary for a prosecutor to take over office,” she said.

Liston, 55, of Sterling, said that he wishes Joyce “the best of luck” and that he probably would stay with the office if she offers him a position. 

An attorney for 27 years, Joyce has served not only as an assistant state’s attorney but also as a defense attorney. 

The election fell on the same day a Whiteside County jury found Nicholas T. Sheley, 33, guilty of murdering 93-year-old Russell Reed in late June 2008.

Sheley already is serving life without parole in the death of a Galesburg man and is charged in the deaths of six more people, four from Rock Falls.

Spencer told a group of reporters Tuesday that he “fully intends to be present and participate” in Sheley’s Jan. 16 sentencing.

From that date, the 160-day “speedy trial clock” kicks in on Sheley’s second Whiteside County case, and Joyce said preparing for that trial will be a top priority. 

“That [trial] really needs to happen, both for the family and the community,” she said. 

She also wants to look into establishing diversionary programs, such as drug and mental health courts, in Whiteside County.

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