Authorities Capture Illinois Man Suspected in as Many as 8 Deaths

By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CHICAGO, July 1 -- A convicted felon sought in connection with as many as eight slayings over the past week was captured by Illinois state police Tuesday night just north of St. Louis, authorities said.

The arrest in Granite City, Ill., of Nicholas T. Sheley came hours after Illinois and Missouri police and the FBI had announced a manhunt for the 28-year-old.

A Granite City police spokeswoman told the Associated Press that Sheley was in custody there, but she declined to give details. Chicago's WFLD-TV reported that he was arrested in a Granite City bar, where patrons and employees had called police

after they became suspicious of him.

Sheley faces charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the death of Ronald Randall, whose body was found Monday behind a grocery store in Galesburg, in northwestern Illinois, police said.

He also faced an arrest warrant in connection with the June 14 invasion of a 90-year-old woman's house in the small northern Illinois town of Sterling. The intruder took money and forced the woman to write checks to him.

Last Thursday, 93-year-old Russell Reed's body was found in the trunk of his car in Sterling. Sheley's Cadillac was found abandoned at Reed's home, prompting police to name Sheley a "person of interest."

On Sunday, an Arkansas couple attending a graduation party in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., disappeared, apparently after walking their dogs outside their hotel. The next day, the bodies of Thomas and Jill Estes were found behind a nearby gas station.

Police said all four homicide victims were killed by blunt trauma, and the couple's bodies may have been moved in Randall's pickup, found abandoned near the Mississippi River with blood in the truck bed.

The next day, four bodies, those of two men and a woman in their 20s and one child, were found in an apartment in Rock Falls near Sterling. One of the victims had been an acquaintance of Sheley. The men were identified as Brock Branson and Kenneth Ulvey; the woman and child were not identified.

Sheley, who was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2000 and felony possession of a firearm and marijuana in 1999, was charged in 2006 with home invasion and other felonies in connection with the death of a Rock Falls man. Those charges were dropped when a key witness could not be found.

Sheley's 31-year-old brother, Josh Sheley, and a 20-year-old woman were arrested last week and charged with obstructing justice for allegedly helping to shelter him. Sheley's cousin, Eric Smith, was also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly helping Sheley remove and dispose of his bloody clothes.

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