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Local Editorials

Words can't describe it

It's hard to find the right words to describe the enormity of the murderous crimes committed by Nicholas Sheley in Illinois. A successful future prosecution in Missouri, a death penalty state, could be summed up in one word: justice.

Four life sentences in prison were announced this week for the convicted killer of four people in a Rock Falls apartment in June 2008.

Judge Jeffrey O'Connor pronounced the harshest sentence allowed by Illinois law for Nicholas T. Sheley, 34, formerly of Sterling.

Sheley was convicted in May of killing Brock Branson, 29, Kilynna Blake, 20, Dayan Blake, 2, and Kenneth Ulve, 25.

The deaths are among eight attributed to Sheley during a gruesome 6-day spree in which all the victims were savagely beaten to death.

Convictions and life sentences were previously obtained in the killings of Russell Reed, 93, in his rural Sterling home, and Ronald Randall, 65, in Galesburg.

Sheley has yet to be tried in Missouri, where he is accused of killing an Arkansas couple, Tom and Jill Estes, in a motel parking lot in Festus.

Testimony understored the absolute brutality of the four deaths in Rock Falls, in which Sheley used a hammer to kill his victims.

Also underscored was the difficulty in finding words to describe what Sheley did.

Heinous is defined as utterly odious or wicked.

That's a start.

Atrocious, monstrous, horrific, abhorrent, and terrible come to mind.

Detestable, repugnant, loathsome, hateful and despicable also apply.

Dreadful, horrible, revolting, disgusting and repulsive.

Hideous, appalling, deplorable, shocking and nauseating.

Those words approach an accurate description of a civilized person's reaction to Sheley's crimes.

But none has the power to fully convey what happened.

Unspeakable comes close.

Abominable is what one dictionary recommends.


Illinois is finally done putting Sheley on trial.

It's Missouri's turn.

As one prosecutor said, now the Illinois victims' families can cheer from the sidelines as a death-penalty state prosecutes the spree killer who inflicted so much pain here.

If the Jefferson County prosecutor succeeds, one word could describe the final pronouncement: justice.

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