ROCK ISLAND – Of 37 potential jurors questioned Tuesday and Monday in Rock Island County court, only four – three women and one man – have been accepted so far to serve during Nicholas Sheley's third murder trial.
Thirty have been dismissed. Three more were asked to return today for further consideration.
Forty more prospective jurors will be called in for questioning today.
There must be 16 people selected – 12 as jurors and four as alternates. Prosecutors say they expect testimony to begin Monday morning.
On Tuesday, Sheley's attorney, Jeremy Karlin of Galesburg, used all but two of his seven peremptory challenges to dismiss potential jurors without cause. The state has used only one.
Judge Jeffrey O'Connor can approve an unlimited number of dismissals for cause.
Sheley, 34, is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in the brutal Rock Falls deaths of Brock Branson, 29; his fiancée, Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25, on June 28, 2008.
Though a murder weapon has never been recovered, autopsy results have indicated that the four were beaten repeatedly with a hammer.
O'Connor granted Karlin's request to move the trial outside of Whiteside County because of the extensive media coverage of the case.
Even with the move, most propective jurors questioned have said they have extensive knowledge of the killings. Of those, a majority have decided they would be unable to remain impartial, based on preconceived notions of Sheley's guilt.
Sheley, of Sterling, is serving two life sentences for the murders of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, and Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling; and is charged in the deaths of Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes, both 54, who were killed in a hotel parking lot in Festus, Missouri.
Prosecutors say Sheley went on a weeklong, drug- and alcohol-fueled killing spree during the summer of 2008.
After this trial is completed, Sheley will head to court in Missouri, where he could be facing the death penalty.
Follow Sauk Valley Media reporter Christi Warren on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom: @SeaWarren.
Testimony in Welling trial begins today
DIXON – Testimony will begin today in the Lee County trial of a man accused of killing a 79-year-old Amboy man in 2012.
A panel of 12 jurors and four alternates were selected Tuesday to serve in the trial of Matthew W. Welling. He is charged with five counts of first-degree murder and two counts of home invasion in connection with the death of Delmar "Leroy" Daniels, killed July 18, 2012. Daniels was stabbed in his home with a pair of scissors, then beaten to death.
The trial, in Judge Ron Jacobson's courtroom, is expected to be completed next week.