Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nicholas Sheley Killing Spree: First Court Appearance

Guest Entry by Katfish

T&T is proud to bring you an “inside the courtroom” report of Nicholas Sheley’s first court appearance from a loyal T&T reader, Katfish! This is a very enjoyable read of a first hand perspective of watching a court proceeding in a small community. Sprocket

I just got home from the hearing for IL vs Nicholas Sheley. I took notes during the hearing (it was supposed to be a preliminary hearing) that was held today at the Knox County courthouse in Galesburg, IL. I thought I would share with T&T the results of today's hearing.

For Nicholas Sheley this was the first of many legal proceedings he will be attending. In total, Sheley is suspected in the deaths of eight people after a killing spree in Illinois and Missouri. Here in Galesburg, IL, Sheley has been charged in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, as well as robbing him and stealing his 2007 Chevy Silverado pickup truck. Sheley has also been charged in Festus, Missouri with the death of a couple, Tom and Jill Estes, both 54, who were visiting the area from Arkansas. Sheley also faces 5 counts of 1st degree murder for the death of a 93 year old man, Russell Reed, from Sterling, IL in Whiteside county. Three others have been charged with obstruction of justice in connection with Reed's death. One of them had Reed's car parked in their drive with his body in the trunk. Sheley is also suspected in the deaths of 4 more in Whiteside county: Kenneth Ulve Jr., 25, Brock Branson, 29, and his pregnant fiancee, Kilynna Blake, 20, and her 2 year old son, Dayan Blake. He has not been charged in those murders at this time. There is a 300 mile bloody trail in this guys wake and it looks like the "clean up" will begin in Galesburg.

A preliminary hearing was not held because on July 21 a grand jury handed down 17 count indictment against Nicholas Sheley for the crimes he is believed to have committed here in Galesburg.

This is the first criminal proceeding that I have attended involving a murder. I tried to pay attention to as many details as possible but I had a few distractions. Not surprisingly, there turned out to be a lot of familiar faces in the courtroom. Knox County, IL only has about 53,000 residents in total, with Galesburg making up about 32,000. Even so, I go places all the time and don't see anyone I know. Today in the courtroom was not one of those days.

I knew going in there would be some familiar faces. The District Attorney is stepfather to 2 of my nieces (husband's brother's daughters) and I expected to know some of the Sheriff Department employees. As it turned out, I either knew about half of the people personally or had sold them shoes. LOL! The later could probably be said for about half the people in the courthouse (employees and patrons). I worked retail for many years.

I was also familiar with the Public Defender (P.D.) assigned to Nicholas Sheley. Fifteen years ago, he defended a couple people who broke into my sister's apartment and beat up her then 10 and 14 year old daughters. Justice was served in that case, but he was near the top of my "don't like" list for a long time. After I became interested in trial watching, I do have a better appreciation for the job he has to do.

When I arrived at the courthouse there were 2 young boys (approximately 10-14 years old) picketing the courthouse with signs that read "Nicholas Sheley Sucks". That kind of surprised me, but I guess it's their right. Now I really didn't know what to expect! Hopefully there wouldn't be any trouble. I parked my husband's new truck on another street bordering the courthouse, just in case. I was about 45 minutes early for the hearing so I wasn't "too miffed" when I had to take my cellphone back to my vehicle. No cellphones allowed in the courthouse! Sign of the times.

To my surprise, I didn't know any of the sheriff's deputies at the entrance. They pointed me towards a small courtroom off the main hall and told me I would have to wait. I found a seat at the back of the courtroom and started my wait. There were a couple people in there already. I recognize one older man from somewhere, but I can't put my finger on where. The others I didn't know. Aha! I saw a friend who is a bailiff. He came over to say hi and told me to put my water bottle in my purse. Thanks buddy! I don't want to get in trouble with the judge. Slowly people filtered in and things got going.

Oh no! The attorney for the state is the Assistant D.A. who prosecuted my nieces case. As I said before, the outcome of that trial was satisfactory, but this guy didn't inspire a lot of confidence. He had holes in the soles of his shoes and his suit pants were frayed at the hem. Surely he isn't trying Sheley's case! It appears this judge is going to hear some other cases via web cam from the jail and set their bond. Looks like a dozen or so got themselves arrested this weekend.

As the D.A. walks by he gives me a little grin then kind of a funny look. I know he's wondering who's in trouble. Thank goodness it isn’t anyone I know personally. Next the P.D. comes in. When I see him, I can't believe it. I haven't seen this guy in 15 years and he doesn't look like he has aged at all. I mentally put him back on my list, lol! Also to my surprise, I know the P.D.'s administrative assistant who’s with him. The irony here is that I first met her during the time of my niece's attackers trial. At that time she and my then 14 year old niece were cheerleaders together.

After the attack my sister and her kids came and stayed with us a few months. I chaperoned my niece to this girl's 13th or 14th birthday dance party at the local VFW and she came to my house a few times. In the later years I sold shoes to her and her Mom. She is a nice girl. I don't think she notices me.

My next distraction was a pleasant one. My ex-sister-in-law came in with 2 other women and sat next to me. The judge was talking when she came in so we just smiled and then they brought in Nicholas Sheley. He is in an orange jumpsuit and fully shackled but looked pretty healthy. He and I are in each others direct line of sight. They have him sitting on a bench at the side until his case is called. We made eye contact as he looked around the courtroom. I don't think he found any familiar faces in the crowd and he closes his eyes. Judge Bordner called a 5 minute recess. The D.A., the P.D. and another guy in a suit step out. During this time my sister-in-law and I caught up on her girls. I'm sure this is a very important trial for her husband, as it is for us all. That could have been anyone of us washing our car that night!

After about twenty minutes the Judge was back and the hearing started for Sheley. He was moved to a table that faces the judge so from here on out his back was to me.

Judge Steven Bordner says that he has been notified that a grand jury had returned a Bill of Indictment with 17 counts against Nicholas T. Sheley for the crimes committed against Ronald Randall. The judge moves through the counts quickly so I wasn't able to note all the details of the counts down. Counts 1-10 are 1st degree murder of Ronald Randall. At this point Judge Bordner lets Sheley know that if convicted of these counts, he could face natural life in prison or the death penalty. Sheley remains quiet. The judge then moves on to counts 11-17. Counts 11-16 are 2 counts of aggravated kidnapping, 2 counts of aggravated vehicular hijacking, 1 count of armed robbery, and 1 count of robbery (Randall's wallet). The final count is possession of a stolen vehicle. This is for the 1989 Dodge Ram pickup that was left at the car wash where Randall was nabbed.

After reading through the indictment, Judge Bordner asked the States Attorney, John Pepmeyer, how the state wanted to proceed. Pepmeyer said that the bill of indictment will supersede the previous charges. He also said that the Attorney General will be assisting the prosecution of the Knox and Whiteside counties charges. Assistant Attorney General, Michael Atterberry then enters his appearance with the court.

Judge Bordner says that the state will proceed with the Bill of Indictment and raises the bond from $1 million to $10 MILLION. The defendant will need $1 million dollars to get out of jail. The judge says that since there is no need for a preliminary hearing that was scheduled for today he would go ahead and schedule an arraignment with a felony judge and the date is set for August 6, at 9:30 a.m.

The judge asks, "Does the defense have anything?" The P.D, James Harrell , got it on the record the indictment will supersede the previous charges, and the previous charges will be void. Pepmeyer, then got on the record he had gave the P.D. a copy of the indictment before the hearing. The P.D. responded, "Right before." Supposedly, the indictment was sealed until "right before" so I think the last comment was unnecessary. The judge reconfirmed the arraignment date and time and the hearing was over. Everyone filed out of the courtroom. It seems as though a lot of people are hanging around in the hallway, probably to see Sheley. Not me. I got the heck out of there. I had to get to my truck and write down everything I could think of while it's fresh in my mind. It looks like we will have a murder trial here in Galesburg. The evening news have a clip of Sheley blowing a kiss to the media and the public when he was brought in to court today. LOL! This guy has nothing to lose. He attacked a federal prisoner at the county jail last week.

This hearing was kind of surreal for me. I grew up in this area and so many faces in court were familiar ones.


Thank you so much Katfish for your in court reporting.

Chicago Tribune


donchais said...

Great job, Katfish!


katfish said...

Thank you donchais! It's been reported that the authorities think Sheley was only in Galesburg about an hour, he exited off I74 to Main street and only had to go 6 or so blocks before he found Ronald Randall and kidnapped him,robbed him,killed him,dumped his body and stole his truck(he even got gas before he got back on the interstate). Thank Goodness Mr. Randall's truck had OnStar. It sounds as though that really helped tie these cases together and get the word out.

donchais said...

Katfish - any discussion as to why Sheley went on this rampage?

Almost like a switch was thrown!

Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

OMG!! So, I don't understand your connection. Were you at the carwash??

katfish said...

I heard he had a meth problem. Meth is a big problem here in the midwest. Of the dozen or so people who were arrested last weekend, and had their bond hearings while I waited for Sheleys hearing to start,2 or 3 were arrested under the meth precursor act. Very Sad
I remember seeing a link for an interview with Sheley's family when reading the story from the Chicago Tribune link that is embedded under my report. I just checked it out and his family says that he has battled drugs and alcohol addition as well as rage for some time.It also reports he had tried to seek help. I feel for his family, I'm sure they have been through hell with him....and now this. :-(

katfish said...

No, my only connection is location. I enjoy watching trials online and t.v. and often come to T&T to get the "incourt" perspective of the trials I watch. When it turned out that he was being held and possibly tried here, I decided to attend and report my experience with T&T.