ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (AP) — A man serving two life sentences for two killings was back in court Monday to stand trial in the deaths of four others, including a young boy.
Nicholas Sheley is accused of killing eight people in 2008, including six in Illinois and two in Missouri.
His third murder trial in Illinois got underway with opening statements and witness testimony in a Rock Island courtroom. Sheley has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of 29-year-old Brock Branson; 20-year-old Kilynna Blake; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and 25-year-old Kenneth Ulve.
Assistant Attorney General Bill Elward told jurors that Sheley went on a weeklong crime spree six years ago, during which he killed eight people, the (Sterling) Gazette reported. He said “a complicated cocktail” of forensic evidence links Sheley to the crimes.
During his opening statement, defense attorney Jeremy Karlin reminded jurors that they should listen to all of the evidence before deciding whether to convict or acquit Sheley.
“The more sensational a crime, the easier it is to obtain a conviction,” Karlin said. “What I’m asking you to do is not easier. Only at the close of this case … and only after you deliberate can you start considering those types of conclusions.”
Branson’s mother, Connie Branson, was the first witness called. She said she became worried on June 30, 2008, because she hadn’t heard from her son for two days. She described how the previous Saturday she and her husband had joined Brock for dinner at their Rock Falls apartment.
She said when she drove by the apartment after work two days later, she noticed the front door was open and her son’s car was parked nearby. It was when she returned with her husband later that they first discovered the body of Kilynna Blake.
“And then I looked a little bit farther and I seen two little legs,” said Dallas Branson, the second person called to testify. He said he was shaking so badly, it was left to a neighbor to call police.
Karlin didn’t cross-examine any of the three witnesses called Monday, including a first-responder and a member of the Rock Falls Police Department.
Sheley still faces trial in the Missouri slayings in which an Arkansas couple was killed. He is serving two life sentences for the killing of a man from Galesburg and another from Sterling.
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