MORRISON – Monday at 11 a.m. in Whiteside County Court, three-time convicted murderer Nicholas Sheley will face what is likely to be his final sentencing in the state of Illinois.
On May 29, a Rock Island County jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for killing Brock Branson, 29; his girlfriend, Kilynna Blake, 20; her son, Dayan, 2; and Kenneth Ulve, 25. All four were beaten to death with a hammer in their Rock Falls apartment in June 2008.
After Sheley is sentenced in Whiteside County, Forrest Wegge, the prosecuting attorney in Jefferson County, Missouri, will begin the lengthy process of extraditing him.
Sheley could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering an Arkansas couple whose bodies were found behind a dumpster in Festus, Missouri, after they had been beaten to death.
Wegge said he has been following Sheley’s cases closely and, in fact, met with some of the Illinois prosecuting attorneys last week about the matter.
He declined to say whether he will seek capital punishment, a decision he must make before the trial begins.
Sheley, 35, killed Russell Reed, 93, on June 23, 2008, in Sterling, then went to Rock Island, where he stole a pair of shorts, a work shirt, and a truck before driving to Galesburg, all the while making phone calls in an attempt to find his then-wife, Holly Sheley.
Once in Galesburg, he murdered Ronald Randall, 65, dumped his body near a dumpster behind a Hy-Vee grocery store, and stole his truck. A Knox County jury found Sheley guilty of that murder in September 2011; he has since appealed the conviction. Knox County State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer said it would be a long while before anything comes of the appeal.
After Sheley murdered Randall, he drove the stolen truck back to Rock Falls, where he murdered Ulve, Blake, and the Bransons in their apartment before going on a drive around the county with Holly Sheley.
During the May trial, she testified that the passenger seat of the truck was so blood-soaked that it left the seat of her pants wet.
Sheley then left for St. Louis before heading farther south to Festus, where, prosecutors say, he murdered Arkansas couple Tom and Jill Estes – the final two of his eight victims – at their hotel, leaving their bodies behind a gas station dumpster.
Authorities were alerted to their deaths when hotel staff saw the Esteses’ dog wandering around the parking lot, covered in blood.
Police arrived on the scene at 12:01 a.m. June 30. That was 6 minutes after the dog had been seen by hotel staff, and 31 minutes after the couple left a nearby graduation party – the reason they were in town in the first place.
When searching the area, police found a large amount of blood, earrings, and two pairs of glasses in the parking lot, along with a second wandering dog. The Esteses’ car, a 2006 red Chevrolet Corvette, was found unlocked about 20 feet from the pool of blood.
Wegge has charged Sheley with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action in their deaths.
Sheley’s Illinois attorney, Jeremy Karlin, of Galesburg, was unavailable for comment.