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Judge: No cameras for Sheley’s sister’s testimony

So far, five requests granted; Joyce expects more to come

ROCK ISLAND – A request by Nicholas Sheley’s sister to limit media coverage of her testimony in Sheley’s upcoming murder trial was granted Thursday in Rock Island County Court.

Rock Island County Judge Jeffrey O’Connor agreed to allow Heidi Sheley to testify without being videotaped or photographed by the media, although audio recording devices still may be used.

Five such requests have been allowed so far. Whiteside County State’s Attorney Trish Joyce said Thursday that she expects more requests will be made.

Sheley, 34, of Sterling, is facing 15 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of four people who were found beaten to death in a Rock Falls apartment on June 28, 2008: Brock Branson, 29; his fiancée, Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25. Their bodies were discovered 2 days later.

His trial is set to begin May 12 in Rock Island County Court.

The trial was moved from Whiteside County at the request of Sheley’s attorney, Jeremy Karlin, who said past media coverage might prejudice a jury in Rock Island.

Sheley already has been convicted of the murders of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, and Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling. He is serving two life sentences without parole for those crimes.

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

During Thursday’s hearing, attorneys told O’Connor that DNA evidence in the four deaths in Rock Falls is being tested at an Illinois State Police crime lab and results should be in by April 9.

The DNA was taken from clothing items Sheley discarded in a gas station Dumpster in Festus, Mo., where he fled after the Illinois murders.

The items, stained with blood, were found by police and sent to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Crime Lab. Prosecutors said DNA from the four victims, Nicholas Sheley, and his wife, Holly Sheley, were found on the clothing items.

Nicholas Sheley sat quietly at the defense table throughout Thursday’s brief hearing, flanked by Rock Island County deputies and members of the Illinois Department of Correction’s Special Operations unit.

– Reporter Rachel Warmke of the Dispatch of Moline and Rock Island Argus contributed to this story.

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