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Four hundred jury summonses sent out for Sheley trial

Judge expects trial to last 2 weeks

MORRISON – Nicholas Sheley is set to go on trial next month in the deaths of four people in Rock Falls – nearly 6 years after they were killed.

On Tuesday, Sheley appeared in Whiteside County Court for a final pretrial conference before he stands trial for the June 2008 murders of Brock Branson, 29; his fiancée, Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25.

The bodies were discovered 2 days after the killings.

Judge Jeffrey O'Connor said the trial was expected to last 2 weeks, with jury selection starting May 9.

"Maybe a little larger, maybe a little shorter," he said.

Four hundred summonses were sent out about a month ago, said Deborah Miller, jury coordinator for the Rock Island County Courthouse. O'Connor expects to assemble prospective jurors on May 9 for a brief orientation and the start of the selection process.

Sheley's attorney, Jeremy Karlin, spent about 15 minutes Tuesday questioning Miller about jury selection.

The court then addressed a motion filed by Karlin to suppress certain statements that Sheley reportedly made after he was arrested in Granite City, Ill., on July 1, 2008.

According to Karlin's motion, while Sheley was being fingerprinted, he asked a Granite City police detective whether he was a Christian. After the detective responded that he was, Sheley said, "I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but I hope that God will forgive me."

The written motion quotes a report filed by that detective about a conversation he and Sheley had while Sheley was waiting to be discharged after receiving medical treatment in a hospital emergency room.

"Sheley again began asking questions about religion," the detective wrote. "Sheley stated that after he got out of prison, he began to go to church. Sheley stated he tries to stay focused on god, but he keeps messing up. Sheley again stated that he had messed up a lot of things. Sheley stated that he had been praying for forgiveness for his sins, and he wanted to believe that God would still allow him into heaven. Sheley stated that he thought God would forgive him, but he did not believe others would. Sheley then began crying."

Both parties agreed that the remarks would not be used as evidence during the trial.

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.

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Steve Nate said prosecutors would use evidence found at the Missouri crime scene only if it's relevant to the Rock Falls deaths, such as DNA evidence.

Nate said he planned to bring in evidence of the death of Randall, but would exclude things like autopsy photos and expert testimonies.

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