UPDATED (9:15 p.m.) GRANITE CITY, Ill. — A two-state manhunt for an ex-con suspected in eight killings in Illinois and Missouri ended quietly Tuesday evening with his arrest outside a bar where police often gathered, witnesses said.

   Illinois State Police, the FBI, and the St. Louis Major Crimes Task Force arrested 28-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley without incident around 6:40 p.m. in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis, said Sgt. Thomas J. Burek.

   A spokeswoman with the Granite City police department said Sheley was in custody there, but she declined to give details.

   Sheley was arrested around 7 p.m. outside Bindy's, a Granite City bar that often serves police officers, said bartender Katie Ronk.

   Sheley ordered a glass of water and went to the bathroom before another bartender and customer recognized him, Ronk said. They notified police who arrived minutes later with FBI agents and took Sheley into custody while he smoked a cigarette outside the bar.

   “He was desperate and he gave up without a fight,” said Tim Lewis, police chief in nearby Festus, Mo.

   “He looks rough,” Lewis said. “He's had a rough two days.”

   The FBI on Tuesday launched a manhunt for Sheley, who they said was armed and dangerous and suspected of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri.

   His alleged victims include a 93-year-old man, a child, and a couple whose blood-soaked dogs were found roaming a motel parking lot, although he has only been charged with murder in one of the deaths.

   Sheley was charged with 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. An autopsy shows the 65-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

   Investigators said the other victims all appeared to have died in the same manner and that evidence linked to Sheley was recovered at each scene, but both the FBI and Illinois State Police declined to elaborate.

   Public records show Sheley has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

   Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press before his capture that Nicholas Sheley recently struggled with drugs and his rap sheet includes arrests for home invasion.

   “He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He's got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn't want to be messed with. Won't back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

   Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

   The killings began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a town of 15,000 about 100 miles west of Chicago.

   On Monday, police discovered the bodies of two men in their 20s, a woman and a child in an apartment on a street of single-family homes in nearby Rock Falls. Police believe they likely died late Saturday or early Sunday, and one was connected to Reed.

   Sheley was acquainted with the male victims, Brock Branson and Kenneth Ulvey, said Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton. The IDs of the woman and child were not immediately released.

   Also Monday, Randall's body was found near a trash bin behind the grocery store. Authorities said he likely was killed Saturday evening.

   More than 250 miles away Monday, the bodies of Tom and Jill Estes of Sherwood, Ark., were found behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., said Bill Baker with the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad.

   The couple had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. The couple's dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood.

   Unrelated to the killings, federal prosecutors in northern Illinois charged Sheley Tuesday with fleeing the state to avoid prosecution for a June 14 felony home invasion in Sterling.

   At one point Sheley was in Iowa, and stopped to call his wife Saturday from a rest area between Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, an FBI agent said in an affidavit.

   Authorities believe Sheley's crisscrossing didn't stop there. William Monroe, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago field office, said he believes Sheley also traveled last week to buy drugs in Chicago, where two handguns taken from Reed — the first man killed — were recovered.

   Investigators has said Sheley was last seen around 11:30 p.m. in downtown St. Louis near Busch Stadium.

EARLIER STORY: (8:20 p.m.)  Bartender says Sheley was arrested outside bar GRANITE CITY, Ill. — The Illinois State Police on Tuesday evening captured an ex-con suspected of killing eight people in two states, authorities said.

   The ISP caught up with 28-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis, said FBI spokeswoman Kelly Brennan. She did not immediately have more information.

   A spokeswoman with the Granite City police department said Sheley was in custody there, but she declined to give details.

   Sheley was arrested around 7 p.m. outside Bindy's, a Granite City bar, said bartender Katie Ronk.

   Sheley ordered a glass of water and went to the bathroom before another bartender and customer recognized him, Ronk said. They notified police who arrived minutes later with FBI agents and took Sheley into custody while he smoked a cigarette outside the bar.

   The FBI on Tuesday launched a manhunt for Sheley, who they said was armed and dangerous and suspected of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri.

   His alleged victims include a 93-year-old man, a child, and a couple whose blood-soaked dogs were found roaming a motel parking lot, although he has only been charged with murder in one of the deaths.

   Sheley was charged with 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. An autopsy shows the 65-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

   Investigators said the other victims all appeared to have died in the same manner and that evidence linked to Sheley was recovered at each scene, but both the FBI and Illinois State Police declined to elaborate.

   Public records show Sheley has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

   Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press before his capture that Nicholas Sheley recently struggled with drugs and his rap sheet includes arrests for home invasion.

   “He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He's got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn't want to be messed with. Won't back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

   Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

   The killings began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a town of 15,000 about 100 miles west of Chicago.

   On Monday, police discovered the bodies of two men in their 20s, a woman and a child in an apartment on a street of single-family homes in nearby Rock Falls. Police believe they likely died late Saturday or early Sunday, and one was connected to Reed.

   Sheley was acquainted with the male victims, Brock Branson and Kenneth Ulvey, said Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton. The IDs of the woman and child were not immediately released.

   Also Monday, Randall's body was found near a trash bin behind the grocery store. Authorities said he likely was killed Saturday evening.

   More than 250 miles away Monday, the bodies of Tom and Jill Estes of Sherwood, Ark., were found behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., said Bill Baker with the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad.

   The couple had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. The couple's dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood.

   Unrelated to the killings, federal prosecutors in northern Illinois charged Sheley Tuesday with fleeing the state to avoid prosecution for a June 14 felony home invasion in Sterling.

   At one point Sheley was in Iowa, and stopped to call his wife Saturday from a rest area between Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, an FBI agent said in an affidavit.

   Authorities believe Sheley's crisscrossing didn't stop there. William Monroe, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago field office, said he believes Sheley also traveled last week to buy drugs in Chicago, where two handguns taken from Reed — the first man killed — were recovered.

   Investigators has said Sheley was last seen around 11:30 p.m. in downtown St. Louis near Busch Stadium.

   ———

   Associated Press writers Daniel Yovich in Sterling, Sophia Tareen, Ashley M. Heher and Don Babwin in Chicago and Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.

EARLIER STORY: (5:30 p.m.) Ex-con suspected in deaths of 8 captured in Ill.

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — The Illinois State Police on Tuesday evening captured an ex-con suspected of killing eight people in two states, authorities said.

   The ISP caught up with 28-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis, said FBI spokeswoman Kelly Brennan. She did not immediately have more information.

   A spokeswoman with the Granite City police department said Sheley was in custody there, but she declined to give details.

   The FBI on Tuesday launched a manhunt for Sheley, who they said was armed and dangerous and suspected of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri.

   His alleged victims include a 93-year-old man, a child, and a couple whose blood-soaked dogs were found roaming a motel parking lot, although he has only been charged with murder in one of the deaths.

   Sheley was charged with 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. An autopsy shows the 65-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

   Investigators said the other victims all appeared to have died in the same manner and that evidence linked to Sheley was recovered at each scene, but both the FBI and Illinois State Police declined to elaborate.

   Public records show Sheley has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

   Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press before his capture that Nicholas Sheley recently struggled with drugs and his rap sheet includes arrests for home invasion.

   “He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He's got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn't want to be messed with. Won't back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

   Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

Earlier Story: (7:20 p.m.) Sheley caught, authorities say  

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — Authorities say they've captured an ex-con suspected of killing eight people in two states.

   Lt. Bill Baker, of the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad, says 28-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley was captured Tuesday in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis. Baker didn't immediately have more information.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Sheley was captured near a Kmart store.

   A spokeswoman with the Granite City police department says Sheley is in custody there. But she declined to give details.

   The FBI launched a manhunt for Sheley, who they said was an armed and dangerous ex-con suspected of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri.

  

EARLIER STORY:  Murder suspect stopped in Q-C during flight, police say

STERLING, Ill. — The FBI has launched a manhunt for an armed and dangerous ex-con suspected of killing eight people in two states including a 93-year-old man, a child, and a couple whose blood-soaked dogs were found roaming a motel parking lot.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley crisscrossed three states in five days — which included a stop in the Quad-Cities —  and was last seen in St. Louis, authorities said. He was named as a suspect in all eight killings Tuesday. Federal and local officials announced a $25,000 reward for his arrest, said he may have a 9-mm handgun and should be considered dangerous.

Police in Galesburg, in northwestern Illinois, said Sheley is charged in a warrant with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the death of Ronald Randall, whose body was found Monday behind a Galesburg grocery store. An autopsy shows the 65-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Investigators said the other victims all appeared to have died in the same manner and that evidence linked to Sheley was recovered at each scene, but both the FBI and Illinois State Police declined to elaborate.

Public records show Sheley has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

The killings began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a town of 15,000 about 100 miles west of Chicago.

On Monday, police discovered the bodies of two men in their 20s, a woman and a child in an apartment in a two-story light-colored brick building on a street of single-family homes in nearby Rock Falls. Police said someone asked them to check on the victims, who likely died late Saturday or early Sunday, and they believe one was connected to Reed.

Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton said Sheley was acquainted with the men, Brock Branson and Kenneth Ulvey. The IDs of the woman and child were not immediately released.

Randall’s body also was found Monday near a trash bin behind the Galesburg grocery store, about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls. Authorities said he likely was killed Saturday evening.

Also Monday, the bodies of Tom and Jill Estes of Sherwood, Ark., were found behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., about 250 miles south of Galesburg, said Bill Baker with the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad.

The couple had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. The couple’s dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood.

In northern Illinois, federal prosecutors charged Sheley with fleeing the state to avoid prosecution for a June 14 felony home invasion in Sterling.

An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit filed with that complaint Tuesday that Sterling police Detective Sgt. Tim Morgan said Sheley at one point fled to Iowa, stopping to call his wife Saturday from a rest area between Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.

Morgan also told the agent that an attendant also identified Sheley as having been at a Galesburg gas station and “that the defendant appeared to have blood on him.” Sheley was driving an apparently stolen truck that was found Monday in Festus, Mo., with Sheley’s fingerprints inside.

Galesburg Police said Randall’s 2007 pickup truck had been found in St. Louis, and that “direct evidence” discovered inside pointed to Sheley’s involvement.

William Monroe, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago field office, said he believes Sheley also traveled last week to buy drugs in Chicago, where two handguns taken from Reed — the first man killed — were recovered.

“I think everyone should take caution,” he said. “There is some concern that some of these killings were somewhat random in nature.”

Festus, Mo., is within 50 miles of both St. Louis and Collinsville, Ill., both cities where police say Sheley was seen Monday. Investigators say he was last seen around 11:30 p.m. in downtown St. Louis near Busch Stadium.

On Tuesday morning, police in tactical gear searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest in the Festus killings, Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

Sheley’s uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press that Nicholas Sheley recently struggled with drugs and his rap sheet includes arrests for home invasion.

“He’s been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it’s out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He’s got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn’t want to be messed with. Won’t back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

The uncle didn’t know of any connection between his nephew — a father of four by two wives — and the St. Louis area. Nicholas Sheley’s cousin Sandy Williams, of Rock Falls, said Sheley had been doing odd jobs and carpentry work while he and his wife lived with relatives.

In a warrant for the June 14 home invasion, Sterling police allege Sheley forced his way into a 90-year-old woman’s home, took an undisclosed amount of money and forced the woman to write out some checks. He became “somewhat physical” with the woman but she was not seriously injured, police said.

Diane Wade runs a home day care in her house directly across the street from the Rock Falls apartment building where the four bodies were found Monday and called 911 after Dallas Branson, the father of victim Brock Branson, banged on her door.

“He said: ‘Call 911, my son’s dead. Call 911, my son’s been murdered,”‘ Wade said. “He tried to force his way in the apartment and there was a body blocking the door. He said he had a gut feeling all day something was wrong.”

Earlier Story:  (4:04 p.m.) Sheley a suspect in eight homicides

Investigators now consider Nicholas Sheley of Sterling a suspect in eight homicides in Illinois and Missouri over the past week.

During a news conference in  Sterling this afternoon, Marc Maton, District 2 commander for Illinois State Police, said there is evidence that connects the homicides.

He declined to elaborate on that evidence.

Investigators also released the names of two of the four people found Monday afternoon in a Rock Falls apartment.

They were identified as Brock Branson, 25, and Kenneth Ulve, 29, both of Rock Falls. The identities of a woman and a child who were found were not released, pending notification of relatives.

Maton said all four victims were acquaintances of Sheley and most of them died from blunt force trauma.

Investigators believe that he killed Russell Reed of rural Sterling late last week. His body was discovered Thursday afternoon in the truck of his car in Rock Falls.

Police believe the Galesburg homicide occurred Saturday afternoon, then the Rock Falls apartment slayings late Saturday or early Sunday, followed by the Missouri killing late Sunday or early Monday, Maton said.

Investigators do not have a motive for the killings, but said they believe Sheley was a drug user.

Investigators believe Sheley may be driving a pickup truck taken from his victim in Galesburg and may be armed with a .9-mm handgun.

William Monroe, assistant special agent in charge of the investigation for the FBI, said people in the areas of the killings should be cautious and on the lookout for Sheley and contact authorities immediately.

“There is some concern that some of these killings may have been somewhat random,” he said.

More than 70 area law officers are on the case in the Sterling/Rock Falls area, and more than 40 more are investigating in the St. Louis area.

EARLIER STORY: ( 3:46 p.m.)   Sheley charged in Galesburg, Ill., killing

STERLING, Ill.   A 28-year-old convicted felon suspected in a string of eight slayings stretching from northwestern Illinois into Missouri was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in one of the deaths.

   Galesburg Police obtained a warrant for Nicholas T. Sheley on charges that also include aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, whose body was found behind a grocery store Monday. An autopsy showed he died from blunt force trauma to the head.

   The warrant came as the FBI also named Sheley a suspect in the killings of seven other people, including a child and three adults discovered in an apartment in northern Illinois and a couple found behind a gas station in a St. Louis suburb — all of whom the FBI said appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma to the head.

   Authorities announced a two-state manhunt and $25,000 reward for Sheley's arrest, but he had not been charged Tuesday in slayings other than Randall's.

   The FBI and local authorities said Sheley was last seen in Illinois near St. Louis and should be considered armed and dangerous. Public records show he has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

   The string of murders began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a city of 15,000 about 100 miles west of Chicago.

   On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered in an apartment in nearby Rock Falls after a well-being check. Police wouldn't say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims is connected to Reed.

   Illinois State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek said Sheley is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment.

   Also Monday, Randall's body was found near a trash bin in Galesburg, a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls. Randall's 2007 pickup truck was found in St. Louis, and evidence discovered inside points to Sheley's involvement, authorities said.

   Meanwhile, the bodies of a man and woman also were found Monday behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., about 250 miles south of Galesburg. Investigators were looking for the couple's pickup truck.

   Police said the man and woman match a vague description of a missing Arkansas couple who had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. The couple's dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood.

   Festus is within 50 miles of both St. Louis and Collinsville, Ill., both cities where police say Sheley had been seen Monday.

   On Tuesday morning, police in tactical gear searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest in the Festus killings, but “were unable to locate the guy,” Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

   Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press that Nicholas Sheley had recently struggled with drugs and that his rap sheet includes arrests for home invasion.

   “He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He's got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn't want to be messed with. Won't back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

   Nicholas Sheley's cousin Sandy Williams, of Rock Falls, said Sheley had been doing odd jobs and carpentry work while he and his wife lived with relatives.

   “He's been basically homeless for a while,” she said.

   Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

   Joe Sheley didn't know of any connection between his nephew — a father of four by two wives — and the St. Louis area.

   The most recent warrant facing Nicholas Sheley was issued last week for a June 14 home invasion at a 90-year-old woman's Sterling home.

   Police said Sheley forced his way into the home, took an undisclosed amount of money and forced the woman to write out some checks. He became “somewhat physical” with the woman but she was not seriously injured, police said.

   In Rock Falls, a community of 9,600 residents about 10 miles from Ronald Reagan's boyhood home, neighbors were nervous Tuesday.

   Bobbie Claxton played with her three children several blocks from the apartment complex where the four bodies were found and said she had cautioned them about avoiding strangers.

   “It really kind of woke me up,” Claxton said. “We're a small, close-knit community. I never even lock my house sometimes when I run an errand.”

UPDATED: ( 3:15 p.m.): Knox County issues warrant for Sheley

GALESBURG, Ill. — Authorities in Knox County have issued a murder warrant in one of eight killings that may be connected to a 28-year-old man being sought by authorities in Illinois and Missouri.

Police in Galesburg say they've obtained a warrant for Nicholas Troy Sheley  on charges including first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking in the death of Ronald Randall.

Randall's body was found behind a Galesburg grocery store, and an autopsy shows the 65-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Police say Randall's 2007 pick-up truck was found in St. Louis, and evidence discovered inside points to Sheley's involvement.

Illinois State Police say Sheley has been named a person of interest in at least five other killings and may be connected to two in Missouri.

EARLIER STORY: (2:52 p.m.)  Three people accused of helping Sheley after Reed killing

Three Whiteside County residents face charges for allegedly helping Nicholas Sheley in the past week.

Eric A. Smith, 21, of Rock Falls, Ill., is charged with obstruction of justice, accused of concealing clothing worn by Nicholas Sheley during the commission of a crime.

Joshua Sheley, his brother, is charged with helping to conceal a homicide and obstructing justice.

Jenna Henson, 20,  of 1732 N. Griswold Ave., Sterling, Ill., also is charged with obstructing justice. She helped conceal clothing worn by Nicholas Sheley, according to Whiteside County Circuit Court records.

Joshua Sheley contacted Henson on June 24 and requested permission to park a vehicle containing a body at her house. Joshua accompanied Nicholas to her house with the body inside the vehicle, according to court documents.

The body of 93-year-old Russell Reed of Sterling was found Thursday stuffed in the truck of his car in the 1700 block of Griswold Avenue.

Joshua Sheley also accompanied his brother and Henson to Chicago on June 25 and showed them where evidence was discarded in a Dumpster, while telling Nicholas Sheley that he was going to “get him out of trouble,” documents state.

Henson has been released on bond, while Joshua Sheley and Smith remained in custody Tuesday in Whiteside County.

EARLIER STORY:   Police seek Sheley in string of Illinois, Missouri killings

STERLING, Ill. — A string of eight killings stretching from northwestern Illinois into Missouri since last week may be linked to a 28-year-old convicted felon from Illinois, authorities said today as they announced a manhunt and $25,000 award for his arrest.

Seven of the dead were found Monday, including a child and three adults discovered in an apartment in northern Illinois and a couple found behind a gas station in a St. Louis suburb. Police were looking for stolen vehicles in at least two of the cases.

The FBI and local authorities said Nicholas T. Sheley was last seen in Illinois near St. Louis and should be considered armed and dangerous. Public records show Sheley has multiple convictions for robbery, drugs and weapons charges and has spent three years in prison.

He has not been charged in any of the slayings, but has been named a person of interest in at least five killings in western Illinois. He may be connected to three others there and in Missouri, according to Illinois State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek.

The string of murders began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of a car Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a town of 15,000 about 100 miles west of Chicago.

On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered in an apartment in nearby Rock Falls after a well-being check. Police wouldn't say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims is connected to Reed.

Burek said Sheley is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment.

Also Monday, the body of an older man was found near a trash bin behind a grocery store in Galesburg, a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls.

Police Sgt. James Martinson said investigators were working to determine if the body is that of a 65-year-old Galesburg man who was reported missing Monday. The man's car was stolen and later found in Missouri, Martinson said. An autopsy was planned for today.

Meanwhile, the bodies of a man and woman also were found Monday behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., about 250 miles south of Galesburg. Investigators were looking for the couple's pickup truck.

Police said the man and woman match a vague description of a missing Arkansas couple who had checked into a Comfort Inn in Festus on Friday and were last seen late Sunday. The couple's dogs were found in the hotel parking lot, unharmed but covered with blood.

Festus is within 50 miles of both St. Louis and Collinsville, Ill., both cities where police say Sheley had been seen Monday.

This morning, police in tactical gear searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest the Festus killings, but “were unable to locate the guy,” Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, of Sterling, told The Associated Press that Nicholas Sheley had recently struggled with drugs and that his rap sheet include arrests for home invasion.

“He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character,” Joe Sheley said. “He's got a temper like anybody else. Just doesn't want to be messed with. Won't back down. But to go looking for a fight, looking for trouble, no.”

Sheley spent nearly three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated robbery between 2000 and 2003 and another 17 months on parole, which ended in April 2005, said IDOC spokesman Derek Schnapp.

The uncle didn't know of any connection between his nephew — a father of four by two wives — and the St. Louis area.

The most recent warrant facing Nicholas Sheley was issued last week for a June 14 home invasion at a 90-year-old woman's home.

Sterling police said Sheley forced his way into the home, took an undisclosed amount of money and forced the woman to write out some checks. He became “somewhat physical” with the woman but she was not seriously injured, police said.

EARLIER STORY:  Police seek Sheley in string of Illinois, Missouri killings

CHICAGO — Police searched today for a 28-year-old convicted felon they say may be connected to a string of eight recent killings in Illinois and Missouri.

Nicholas T. Sheley was last seen on the two states’ border near St. Louis and should be considered armed and dangerous, police said.

He has not been charged in any of the slayings, but has been named a person of interest in at least five killings in western Illinois and may have a connection to three others there and in Missouri, according to Illinois State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek.

Seven of the eight were found dead on Monday and police were looking for stolen vehicles in at least two of the cases.

The string of murders began with the beating death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling, Ill., man whose body was found stuffed in a trunk on Thursday. Sheley also is from Sterling, a small town about 100 miles west of Chicago.

On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered in an apartment in nearby Rock Falls, Ill., after a well-being check. Police wouldn’t say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims is connected to Reed.

Burek said Sheley is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment.

Also Monday, the body of an older man was found near a trash bin behind a grocery store in Galesburg, Ill., a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls.

Police Sgt. James Martinson said investigators were working to determine if the body is that of a 65-year-old Galesburg man who was reported missing Monday. The man’s car was stolen and later found in Missouri, Martinson said, but he did not say exactly where. An autopsy was planned for today.

Meanwhile, the bodies of a man and woman also were found Monday behind a gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo., about 250 miles further south of Galesburg. Investigators were looking for the couple’s pickup truck.

Festus is about 50 miles south of Collinsville, Ill., where police say Sheley had been seen Monday night.

This morning, police in tactical gear searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest the Festus killings, but “were unable to locate the guy,” Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

Investigators said Sheley still  at large and “should be considered armed and dangerous.” Public records show he has a lengthy criminal record, including multiple convictions for robbery, drug and weapons charges.

EARLIER STORY: Sheley sought in deaths of 5; may be connected to 3 more

CHICAGO — A string of eight killings in Illinois and Missouri may be connected to a 28-year-old man last seen at the two states’ border near St. Louis, authorities said this morning.

Illinois State Police called the man a person of interest in at least five homicides, including the deaths of four people whose bodies were found in an apartment in the western Illinois town of Rock Falls, about 116 miles west of Chicago.

State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek said the man is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment.

The man also is believed to have connections to a recent homicide in Galesburg, a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls, and two slayings about 250 miles further south in Festus, a Missouri suburb of St. Louis, Burek said.

On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered in the apartment after a well-being check in Rock Falls. Police wouldn’t say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims also is connected to 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in a trunk last week.

Authorities there say Reed died of blunt force trauma. Sterling is about 2 miles from Rock Falls.

The Whiteside County State’s Attorney’s office said the person of interest, who also is from Sterling, hasn’t been charged in connection to any of the deaths, though there is a warrant for his arrest in a June 14 home invasion.

Investigators said the man remained at large today and “should be considered armed and dangerous.” Public records show he has a lengthy criminal record, including multiple convictions for robbery, drug and weapons charges.

The man had been seen Monday evening in Collinsville, an Illinois suburb of St. Louis.

This morning, police in tactical gear searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest in a double homicide in Festus, Mo., but “were unable to locate the guy,” Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

Wittenauer said the search was at the behest of the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad investigating the slayings of a man and woman found dead Monday behind a Festus gas station. Investigators were looking for the couple’s pickup truck.

Also Monday, the body of an older man was found near a trash bin behind a grocery store in Galesburg. Police Sgt. James Martinson and investigators were working to determine if the body is that of a 65-year-old Galesburg man who was reported missing Monday. The man’s car was stolen and later found in Missouri, Martinson said. An autopsy was planned for today.

Authorities weren’t sure if the case was connected with the Rock Falls deaths.

“It could be, but it’s unknown at this time,” Martinson said.

A TRAIL OF DEATH

A timeline of events leading to today’s search for Nicholas T. Sheley, a 28-year-old convicted felon police say may be connected to a string of eight recent killings in Illinois and Missouri. Sheley has not been charged in any of the deaths. Police are calling him a person of interest.

June 14

• A man forces his way into a 90-year-old woman’s home in Whiteside County in northern Illinois, takes some money and forces her to write out checks. A warrant is eventually issued for Nicholas T. Sheley’s arrest on home invasion charges.

June 26

• The body of 93-year-old Robert Reed is found stuffed in the trunk of his 2003 Buick Century in Sterling, Ill. Autopsy shows he died of blunt force trauma. Police later identify Sheley, also from Sterling, as a person of interest in the death.

June 27

•  An Arkansas couple, Tom and Jill Estes, check in to a Comfort Inn in the St. Louis suburb of Festus, Mo.

June 28

•  Four people later found dead in a Rock Falls apartment, about 2 miles from Sterling, are last seen on this date.

June 29

•  10:30 p.m. Tom and Jill Estes are seen leaving a graduation party.

•  Midnight: A hotel guest finds the couple’s two small dogs wandering in the hotel parking lot, unhurt but covered in blood. The couple are missing.

Monday

•  10:30 a.m.: The bodies of a man and a woman are found behind a gas station in Festus, Mo., about a mile and a half from the hotel. Police say they have obvious injuries.

•  Around noon: The body of a man is found beside a trash bin behind a Galesburg Hy-Vee Food Store. Authorities believe it may be that of a missing 65-year-old Galesburg man whose car was stolen and later found in Missouri.

•  4 p.m. The bodies of four people are discovered in a Rock Falls apartment building. They include two men, a woman and a child.

•  Late night: Sheley believed to be in Collinsville, Ill., across the border from St. Louis.

Today

•  Authorities announce a $25,000 reward in their search for Sheley, saying he should be considered armed and dangerous.

•  Police search a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest the Festus, Mo., killings. No one is found.

•  Autopsies are scheduled for Galesburg victim and for the four Rock Falls victims.

EARLIER STORY: Sheley sought in deaths of 5; may be connected to 3 more

CHICAGO — A string of killings in Illinois and Missouri may be connected to a 28-year-old man last seen at the two states’ border near St. Louis, authorities said this morning.

Illinois State Police called the man a person of interest in at least five homicides, including the deaths of four people whose bodies were found in an apartment in the western Illinois town of Rock Falls.

State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek said the man is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment. The man also is believed to have connections to other recent homicides and Galesburg, a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls, and Festus, a Missouri suburb of St. Louis, Burek said.

On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered in the apartment after a well-being check in Rock Falls. Police wouldn’t say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims also is connected to 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in a trunk last week.

Authorities there say Reed died of blunt force trauma. Sterling is about 2 miles from Rock Falls.

Investigators said today that the person of interest remains at large and “should be considered armed and dangerous.” He was last seen Monday evening in Collinsville, an Illinois suburb of St. Louis.

On Tuesday morning, police in tactical gear eventually searched a Collinsville apartment building for a person of interest in a double homicide in Festus, Mo., but “were unable to locate the guy,” Collinsville police Sgt. Rich Wittenauer said.

Wittenauer said the search was at the behest of the St. Louis Area Major Case Squad investigating the slayings of a man and woman found dead Monday behind a Festus gas station. Investigators are looking for the couple’s pickup truck.

Wittenauer could not say whether it was the same person of interest being sought in the Illinois killings. Police in Festus declined to comment on their investigation.

Also Monday, the body of an older man was found near a trash bin behind a grocery store in Galesburg. Police Sgt. James Martinson and investigators were working to determine if the body is that of a 65-year-old Galesburg man who was reported missing Monday. The man’s car was stolen and later found in Missouri, Martinson said. An autopsy was planned for today.

Authorities aren’t sure if the case is connected with the Rock Falls deaths.

“It could be, but it’s unknown at this time,” Martinson said.

EARLIER STORY:  Sheley sought in deaths of 5; may be connected to 3 more

Illinois State Police are looking for a 28-year-old Sterling man who may be connected with at least five murders, including the deaths of four people whose bodies were found in an apartment in the western Illinois town of Rock Falls, authorities said Tuesday.

 State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek said the man is an acquaintance of one of those found inside the apartment. Authorities also are examining connections between the cases and other recent homicides in Festus, Mo. and Galesburg, a community about 60 miles southwest of Rock Falls, Burek said.

   On Monday, the bodies of two men, a woman and a child were discovered after a well-being check in Rock Falls. Police wouldn't say who made the request for the check, but they believe one of the victims is also connected to 93-year-old Russell Reed, a Sterling man whose body was found stuffed in a trunk last week.

   Authorities there say Reed died of blunt force trauma. Sterling is about 2 miles from Rock Falls.

   Investigators said today that the person of interest remains at large and “should be considered armed and dangerous.” He was last seen Monday evening in the Metro East community of Collinsville.

   Also Monday, the body of an older man was found near a trash bin behind a grocery store in Galesburg. Police Sgt. James Martinson and investigators are working to determine if the body is that of a 65-year-old Galesburg man who was reported missing Monday. The man's car was stolen and later found in Missouri, Martinson said. An autopsy was planned for Tuesday.

   Authorities aren't sure if the case is connected with the Rock Falls deaths.

   “It could be, but it's unknown at this time,” he said.

   Police in Festus declined to comment on their investigation Tuesday.

   A man and woman were found dead behind a gas station in the south St. Louis suburb on Monday, and investigators are looking for the couple's pickup truck.

EARLIER STORY: Sheley may be connected to 2 more deaths

By Times online staff

The man sought in connection with the deaths of five people in the Sterling/Rock Falls, Ill., area also is thought to be connected to homicides in Galesburg, Ill., and Festus, Mo., police say.

Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, of Sterling is considered a “person of interest” in these homicides. Sheley remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous. The public is reminded to call authorities and to not approach Sheley.

The Illinois State Police, Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sterling Police Department and the Rock Falls Police Department currently are investigating the two homicides that occurred in rural Whiteside County and in Rock Falls.  The most recent of these was discovered Monday afternoon.  Rock Falls police officers responding to a welfare check and discovered four homicide victims, one of whom was a child in a Rock Falls residence.

 An earlier homicide victim, a 93-year-old man, was discovered in rural Whiteside County on June 26 by the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators say Sheley may have a connection to two additional homicides in Galesburg and Festus. Sheley was last believed to be in Collinsville, Ill., area late Monday night, police said.

The FBI and Whiteside County Crime Stoppers have offered a $25,000 reward for the arrest of  Sheley.

A tip hot line phone number has been established at (866) 219-8333.

EARLIER STORY: Police investigate 4 deaths in Rock Falls, Ill., apartment

By Sheena Dooley and Steven Martens

ROCK FALLS, Ill. — Police are investigating the deaths of four people who were found Monday afternoon in a Rock Falls apartment.

The Rock Falls Police Department received a request for a welfare check at 1201 Avenue A, Apartment 5, at 4 p.m. and discovered the bodies of two men, a woman and a child in the apartment, according to a news release from Illinois State Police.

The cause of the deaths is unknown at this time. Autopsies will be conducted today.

At least one of the victims is associated with Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, of Sterling, who is considered a “person of interest” in the investigation, according to police. A $25,000 reward was announced Monday night for information leading to Sheley’s arrest.

Sheley is also wanted in connection with the death of Russell R. Reed, a 93-year-old Sterling man whose body was found in the trunk of his car Thursday afternoon.

Reed was reported missing about 8 a.m. Thursday, according to the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department. His car, a 2003 Buick Century, was found about 3 p.m. Thursday in the 1700 block of Griswold Avenue, Sterling.

Sheley had been spotted in Rock Falls driving a white Lincoln that was reported stolen a short time later, according to the sheriff’s office. Police now believe Sheley could be driving a red 1999 Jeep with Illinois license plate 820-1126, which was reported stolen near Rock Falls.

Sheley is described as white, 5 feet 10 inches tall, about 150 pounds, with green eyes and shaved brown hair. He is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to call 911 or Whiteside County Crime Stoppers, which is offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to Sheley’s arrest, at (815) 632-6640.

The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, Dixon Police Department, Sterling Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are assisting Rock Falls police in the investigation related to Monday’s discovery of the bodies.

Late Monday, several blocks around the apartment building remained cordoned off by authorities, and groups of neighbors who had gathered earlier in the evening had dispersed. The apartment building is a couple of blocks away from Centennial Park.

Charlie Hayden, who has lived in the neighborhood for 18 months with her boyfriend, said the normally quiet neighborhood bustled with extra traffic and police all evening.

She said her boyfriend will not allow his children to play in the park down the street until Sheley is apprehended or the case wrapped up. They had just finished locking the windows to their home on a cool night she would have liked to keep them open.

“It’s just a little uncomfortable right now with him out on the loose,” she said. 

Her boyfriend, Frank Carver, said police had asked them if they had heard any disturbances in the neighborhood on Saturday.

Another Rock Falls man is being held in connection with the investigation into Reed’s death. Eric A. Smith, 21, is being held in Whiteside County Jail on $100,000 bond on a warrant for obstructing justice, according to the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department. Smith was taken into custody about 10 p.m. Friday.

Josh Sheley, brother of Nicholas, also is being held in the Whiteside County Jail on charges that were not available Monday night.

Nicholas Sheley also is wanted on a warrant on a home invasion charge alleging that he entered the home of a 90-year-old Sterling woman June 14 and forced her to write some checks before taking an undisclosed amount of money, according to the Sterling Police Department. The woman was not injured.

Sheena Dooley can be contacted at (563) 383-2363 or sdooley@qctimes.com. Steven Martens can be contacted at (563) 659-2595 or smartens@qctimes.com.

Reward offered

Police are searching for Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, of Sterling, Ill., for questioning. He is described as white, 5 feet 10 inches tall, about 150 pounds, with green eyes and shaved brown hair.  He may be driving a red 1999 Jeep with Illinois license plate 820-1126, which was reported stolen near Rock Falls, Ill. Sheley is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call 911 or Whiteside County Crime Stoppers at (815) 632-6640. A $25,000 reward is offered for information leading to his arrest.