MORRISON, Ill. — Nicholas Sheley was silent Wednesday when given a chance to speak before receiving another life sentence after his second conviction for first-degree murder.
But Bonnie Reed, whose 93-year-old father-in-law, Russell Reed, was the first of eight people investigators believe Sheley killed during a weeklong spree in June 2008, seized on her opportunity to address Sheley directly during the sentencing hearing at the Whiteside County Courthouse.
“You are an animal,” Reed told Sheley, who sat at a table next to his attorney. He did not appear to react while Reed spoke from the witness stand. “I hope you never forget what you did.”
Sheley, 33, was convicted in November of first-degree murder, home invasion and residential burglary in Russell Reed’s death. His bludgeoned body was found in the trunk of his own car parked in the driveway of the Sterling home of a woman who was dating Sheley’s brother, Joshua.
Prosecutors said during Sheley’s trial that a bloody scene in the kitchen of Russell Reed’s home indicated that Sheley had beaten him to death inside his kitchen and then taken the body to the car parked in the garage.
Reed said her husband, Don Reed, visited his father’s rural Sterling farm frequently after his father was killed. She said the family recently had the farmhouse torn down. She said she was glad she didn’t have to look at the crime scene anymore.
She called Sheley “a stupid young kid after drugs and money” who didn’t have to hurt the elder Reed in order to rob him.
“He couldn’t have hurt you if he wanted to,” she said.
Reed’s granddaughter, Nicole Reed, also prepared a victim impact statement, which was read in court by former Whiteside County State’s Attorney Gary Spencer, who prosecuted the case but has since retired.
Nicole Reed wrote that she feels sorry for Sheley because she didn’t think he knew what it was like to feel love. She described her grandfather as a kind man who “truly had a smile that would melt your heart.”
The granddaughter said she wondered why Sheley would not take responsibility for his actions, admit what he had done and accept the consequences.
“Why don’t you have a soul, a conscience or a heart?” she wrote.
Sheley’s attorney, Jeremy Karlin, asked Circuit Judge F. Michael Meersman to impose the minimum sentences on Sheley, but Spencer said the crimes justified the maximum sentence.
Meersman agreed, sentencing Sheley to a life sentence that will run consecutively to the life sentence Sheley already is serving after being convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder in the death of Ronald Randall of Galesburg.
Meersman also sentenced Sheley to 60 years in prison on one count of home invasion and 15 years on a count of residential burglary.
Before the sentencing, Meersman denied a motion filed by Karlin requesting a new trial that cited several alleged judicial errors in the case, including a decision by Circuit Judge Jeffrey O’Connor to deny the defense’s request for a change of venue.
Meersman said he was initially apprehensive about the possibility of seating an impartial jury in Whiteside County, but was happy that such a jury was found.
“I think it says a lot about the citizens of Whiteside County,” Meersman said.
Meersman said the other issues raised by Karlin did not justify a new trial.
“I think the evidence was overwhelming,” the judge said.
Karlin said after the hearing that he would file an appeal of Sheley’s conviction and a motion challenging Meersman’s decision to make Sheley’s sentences to be served consecutively.
In a statement released after the hearing, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the sentence was appropriate.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Reed, who sadly was one of many victims of Nicholas Sheley’s senseless killing spree,” Madigan said. “Today’s sentencing ensures that Nicholas Sheley will continue to pay for his actions for the remainder of his life.”
Whiteside County State’s Attorney Tish Joyce, who was elected in November to succeed Spencer, praised the work of Spencer and attorneys Steven Nate and Michael Atterberry, who assisted in Sheley’s prosecution.
“The Reed family has had to suffer through this unthinkable ordeal, and I hope that today’s proceedings, which allowed them to voice their thoughts and emotions regarding this horrific crime, will bring them some sense of peace and closure,” Joyce said in a statement.
Steven Martens at 12:29 p.m.
MORRISON, Ill. — Nicholas Sheley was sentenced this morning to life in prison for the June 2008 murder of Russell Reed of Sterling.
Sheley now has been convicted of two murders in connection with what police say was week-long spree that left eight people dead.
Judge F. Michael Meersman also set a tentative trial date of June 3 for Sheley’s next trial on charges of first-degree murder related to the deaths of four people he is accused of killing in a Rock Falls apartment.