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State expects to rest case Wednesday in Sheley trial

Closing arguments scheduled for Thursday

ROCK ISLAND – Prosecutors said Tuesday that today will be the final day of testimony in Nicholas Sheley's third murder trial.

The defense might not offer evidence. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday morning in Rock Island County court, with the jury to begin deliberations immediately after that.

On June 30, 2008, Rock Falls police walked in on a gruesome crime scene at 1201 Avenue A, Apartment 5.

They found four bodies: three in the hallway and one in a bedroom near the front door. The hall, walls and ceiling were spattered with blood, and in a second bedroom, near the bed, they found a blood-stained blue work shirt with the letters "A.J." on it, a pair of khaki cargo shorts, and two Newport brand cigarette butts.

A forensic scientist testified last week that the DNA found on the cigarettes matched Sheley's.

On Tuesday, Jennifer MacRitchie, another forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police, said the same thing about the blood-covered clothes: They, too, had Sheley's DNA on them. Other blood samples from the clothes, though, showed a mixture of DNA – some of it from Ronald Randall, and some of it from Kenneth Ulve.

In 2010, Sheley was convicted of murdering Randall in Galesburg. The 65-year-old's body was found near a dumpster at a Hy-Vee 2 days after he was killed.

On Tuesday in court, Sheley's sister, Heidi Sheley, testified that on June 28, around 7 p.m., she got a phone call from her brother asking where his wife, Holly, was. She said she didn't know. Randall is believed to have been killed between 8 and 8:30 that night – just hours before four people were ambushed and brutally murdered in their Rock Falls apartment: Ulve, 25; Brock Branson, 29; his girlfriend, Kilynna Blake; and her 2-year-old son, Dayan.

After killing them, prosecutors say, Sheley met up with Holly, and the two drove around in the truck Sheley had stolen from Randall.

During Heidi's testimony Tuesday, she said that about 1 a.m. on June 29, Holly knocked on a window. Holly needed to borrow a pair of jeans, Heidi explained, because hers were covered in blood.

Prosecutors say that some time after that, Nicholas Sheley drove to St. Louis.

Holly is scheduled to testify today.

Bradley Sherrell, an iron worker in St. Louis, testified that around 10 or 10:30 a.m. on June 29, a man wearing a sleeveless gray Chicago Bears shirt and khaki shorts was walking near a construction site where Sherrell worked. The man seemed curious about what they were doing, Sherrell said, and asked whether someone would take a picture of him near the site. Sherrell had a co-worker pose with the man before the man went on his way.

Sherrell identified that man in court as Nicholas Sheley.

During her testimony, Heidi talked about a letter she had received from her brother saying that he was in St. Louis before heading to California. In the envelope was the photograph that Sherrell took: of Sheley wearing the Bears shirt and shorts that, prosecutors say, he stole from Brock Branson's closet.

The rest of testimony Tuesday followed Sheley as he made his way from St. Louis to Festus, Missouri, where he is charged with killing two more people, an Arkansas couple – Tom and Jill Estes, 54 – before driving back to St. Louis.

Before court Tuesday, Sheley's defense attorney, Jeremy Karlin, asked for a mistrial, because Judge Jeffrey O'Connor had fallen asleep twice Friday while surveillance video was being shown to the jury. O'Connor denied Karlin's request.

When this trial concludes, Sheley will head to court in Missouri, where he could face the death penalty. Illinois does not have a capital punishment law.

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

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

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