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Sheley pleads not guilty to four murders

Motion to reconsider life sentence denied

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Nicholas T. Sheley
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Jeremy Karlin
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Judge Jeffrey O'Connor

MORRISON – Twice-convicted killer Nicholas T. Sheley pleaded not guilty Monday to murdering four people in a Rock Falls apartment in late June 2008.

Sheley is tentatively set to stand trial June 3 in the deaths of Brock Branson, 29; his fiancée Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25.

During a short hearing Monday, Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry said prosecutors expect to file a motion asking to keep Sheley shackled during pretrial hearings and another motion seeking to admit information on prior bad acts at trial.

Sheley’s appointed attorney, Jeremy Karlin of Galesburg, said he will file a motion asking to move the trial out of Whiteside County.

Karlin has until March 8 to file the motion and until March 22, the date of Sheley’s next pretrial conference, to file documents in support of his request. Change of venue motions were denied in Sheley’s two previous trials, the most recent in Whiteside County Court.

Sheley, 33, of Sterling, is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in the Rock Falls case.

Last month, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the bludgeoning death of Russell Reed, 93, of rural Sterling.

Monday, Judge F. Michael Meersman denied his motion to reconsider the sentence, leaving the door open for the defense to appeal the decision to the Third District Appellate Court.

Sheley also was sentenced to life without parole in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg. He appealed that conviction and sentence in January 2012; he was appointed an appellate defender to handle it, and the defender’s brief in support is due in appellate court on Thursday.

Karlin has said the biggest “error” to be addressed in the brief is that the trial should have been conducted outside of Knox County and that Knox County residents who had knowledge of the other murder charges against Sheley should not have been seated on the jury.

If the appellate court rejects his appeal, Sheley can file a notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court.

Sheley also is charged in the deaths of Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes, both 54, who were killed in Festus, Mo.

Judge Jeffrey O’Connor, chief justice of the 14th Judicial Circuit, will oversee Sheley’s second Whiteside County case.

He presided over the first case before he stepped aside last summer for health reasons.

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