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A day of 'complicated cocktail' of forensic evidence

Sheley murder trial will resume Tuesday

ROCK ISLAND – Nicholas Sheley entered a Galesburg gas station at 8:30 p.m. June 28, 2008. It was a Saturday night. His hands were shaking. He was covered it blood.

He purchased a six pack of Bud Light bottles, Newport cigarettes, and a lighter.

That was the video deposition testimony of a worker at the station Friday during the fifth day of Sheley’s murder trial in Rock Island County court.

Prosecutors say that Sheley went to the gas station shortly after he murdered Ronald Randall, 65, and stole his truck. He was convicted in September 2011 of that murder, which prosecutors say happened mere hours before he ambushed and killed Brock Branson, 29; his girlfriend, Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25, in their Rock Falls apartment.

The testimony of eight witnesses Friday pertained almost exclusively to the chain of custody of evidence obtained during the Galesburg investigation – necessary because, prosecutors say, it’s all part of the “complicated cocktail” of forensic evidence that links him to the Rock Falls deaths.

The majority of the morning was spent showing the jury surveillance videos taken from both a Mobil gas station in Galesburg and a Hy-Vee gas station across the street.

Prosecutors say the clothing Sheley is seen wearing in surveillance video taken at the Galesburg gas station, and shown to the court Friday, was later found in the Rock Falls apartment, covered in blood, as were two Newport brand cigarette butts.

After returning from lunch, and before the jury was brought in, defense attorney Jeremy Karlin said that he had a matter he wanted to be placed in the court’s record. He apologized before saying that Judge Jeffrey O’Connor had fallen asleep during some of the video footage, and he wanted it to be part of the record.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Elward said he noticed it, too, and joked that he’s been known to sometimes have that effect on people.

O’Connor said he was aware of what happened, and court resumed.

Ann Yeagle, a forensic scientist for the Illinois State Police, was the last witness to testify Friday. She talked about examining and taking swabs from the blood-covered pair of shorts and work shirt found in the Rock Falls apartment, and from a six pack of Bud Light bottles.

She said, though, that she wasn’t the one who did the actual DNA testing. That was done by another woman in her office – testimony that, presumably, will come next week.

Court will not be in session Monday because of the holiday; testimony will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Sheley is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in the the four Rock Falls deaths, and already is serving two life sentences for the Galesburg killing and for the murder of Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling.

Sheley, 34, of Sterling, also is charged in the deaths of Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes, both 54, who were killed on June 29, 2008, in a hotel parking lot in Festus, Missouri.

After this trial is completed, Sheley will head to court there, where he could face the death penalty.

Follow Sauk Valley Media reporter Christi Warren on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom: @SeaWarren.

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