Weapon identified in Sheley murder case

Pathologist: Hammer used to kill four people

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 8:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(SVM file photo)
Nicholas Sheley is led into the a Whiteside County courtroom in January during his sentencing for the murder of Russell Reed.

MORRISON – A hammer was used to kill the four people found beaten to death in a Rock Falls apartment during the summer of 2008, a forensic pathologist testified during a hearing Monday.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Elward said a murder weapon had never been recovered, and up until Monday, no mention of a specific weapon had been made during legal proceedings.

During a hearing Monday to decide which autopsy photos would be admitted in the upcoming murder trial of Nicholas Sheley, forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Peters first mentioned the use of a hammer when talking about the autopsy of Kenneth Ulve.

Peters said Ulve suffered at least 11 injuries and died of blunt trauma to the head.

“These injuries were caused by a hammer,” Peters said, referring to a photograph showing the skull. “Nothing else caused these three injuries.”

Peters went on to discuss the various head injuries – fractures, impact sites, skull fragments, hemorrhaging, cuts, and bruising – seen in autopsy photographs of Brock Branson, Kilynna Blake, and Blake’s 2-year-old son, Dayan.

Judge Jeffrey O’Connor ruled that of the nearly 100 photographs discussed, 19 could be admitted as evidence.

Judge O’Connor also decided to honor the requests of three potential state’s witnesses who objected to cameras being allowed in the courtroom during their testimonies. He said that, while photographs and video wouldn’t be allowed, audio would be.

Sheley, 34, faces 15 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Branson, 29; his fiancée, Blake, 20; her son, Dayan; and Ulve, 25.

He already is serving two life sentences after being convicted in Knox and Whiteside counties of two murders during a killing spree that left eight people dead in late June 2008.

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