MORRISON – Nicholas T. Sheley had crack cocaine on his mind on June 23, 2008.
He often turned to his drug of choice after he had been drinking; he had developed a habit that cost as much as $1,500 a day.
It was his desperation for the drug that led him to "brutally and savagely" kill 93-year-old Russell Reed in his isolated Blue Goose Road farmhouse sometime between 3 p.m. and dusk that day, Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry said Tuesday.
Reed was struck at least 18 times on his face, neck, and chest, blows that caused his death, Atterberry said.
"It's clear ... the approximate 18 different blows that Mr. Reed sustained were delivered with clear intent to kill Mr. Reed," Atterberry told the jury.
In his lengthy closing argument, Atterberry laid out the "overwhelming" evidence that pointed to Sheley as Reed's killer.
Sheley met Reed months earlier when he, his wife, Holly, and brother Joshua went to the farm west of Sterling to ask if they could take some items to scrap for cash.
The morning of June 23, Sheley and his wife went to Rockford to get a $1,000 title loan on their green 1996 Cadillac. On the way home, she bought him alcohol, which he drank.
Once home, they fought, and an angry Sheley, with $176 in his pocket, took off in the Cadillac.
After killing Reed, Sheley dragged his bloody body through the house and out to the garage, and put it into the trunk of Reed's 2003 Buick Century, Atterberry said. His Cadillac, which had mechanical problems, was hidden behind a corn crib.
Reed's body was found 3 days later, on June 26, still in the trunk. The Buick was backed all the way into the driveway of a home owned by Sheley's brother's girlfriend. Sheley's fingerprint was found on the driver's side window and his DNA was found on a cigarette on Reed's kitchen table.
Witnesses also testified that Sheley was driving the Buick that night and that he had blood on his clothes. He later showed up at the home of Amber and Dealon Gonzalez, where he joked, "I just got done killing someone," then said he was gutting fish.
“We all know that the blood didn't come from gutting fish,” Atterberry said. “He got all that blood on him when he beat poor Mr. Reed to death.”
It wasn't a "coincidence" that Sheley was covered in blood the night Reed was killed or that he was seen driving the Buick around, Atterberry said.
The day Reed's body was found, a desperate Sheley stole a white Lincoln Continental and led Dixon and Lee County police on a high-speed chase that ended in a field near Harmon.
By the time deputies approached the car, Sheley had escaped.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Jeremy Karlin attacked the DNA and fingerprint evidence, saying that the jury heard no scientific evidence to back up its validity.
Karlin also talked about the “cast of characters” he called perjurers, drug dealers, felons, and thieves who would testify to anything to support prosecutors' theory so as to help themselves out in their own criminal cases.
Specifically, he pointed to Sheley's wife, Holly, whom he called a “habitual liar” and the prosecution's “Swiss Army knife” – implying, presumably, that she was a multipurpose tool ready to suit its every need.
Holly Sheley testified last week that she and her husband argued over his drinking on June 23, 2008. In July 2008, though, she told a grand jury that they had a disagreement over who would move their things into a new home and who would watch their two kids, Karin said.
He also pointed to Amber Gonzalez's testimony about seeing Sheley in bloody clothes, and said she did not tell police in her initial interviews that she smoked crack with Sheley and her husband Dealon the night of the killings.
She, too, has a pending criminal case.
"There's no actual proof that Nick committed this crime," Karlin told the jury. "There's no one here that can say that he did it, and, frankly, some of this evidence actually points to other people."