A spree killer caught in Granite City after eight murders dropped to his knees to apologize as he was sentenced to life in prison in Missouri.
Nicholas Sheley, 38, was convicted of six murders in Illinois and pleaded guilty Wednesday to two more: Tom and Jill Estes, whom Sheley murdered outside a hotel in Festus, Mo., in June 2008.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first time Sheley had spoken publicly. He read a 20-minute statement in which he expressed a desire to go back in time and talk to “the disgruntled young man” that he had been, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He dropped to his knees to apologize for the murders, wept and begged for forgiveness, stating that he hoped “God would use me” to help other prisoners.
Sheley had killed an elderly man in Sterling and four people in Rock Falls, as well as a man in Galesburg, before he killed the Estes couple in Festus, beating them to death and dumping them behind a gas station. The couple’s dogs were found covered in blood, and hotel guests called the police. Deputies followed the trail of blood 1.5 miles to the gas station.
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A nationwide manhunt ended July 1, 2008, outside a Granite City tavern, where patrons recognized him from media coverage and called the police while he was outside smoking a cigarette. He was arrested without further incident.
In the main trial in Morrison, Ill., prosecutors contended that Sheley’s spree was kicked off with the belief that one of his victims, Brock Branson, had been having an affair with his wife. In a Rock Falls, Ill., apartment, Sheley beat Branson; Kenneth Ulve; Branson’s fiancee, Kilynna Blake; and her 2-year-old son, Dayan, to death with a hammer, just hours after he had bludgeoned 93-year-old farmer Russell Reed and another man to death. Prosecutors believed his killing spree was fueled by drugs and alcohol.
Sheley has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the deaths of the Estes, as well as 75 years for two counts of armed criminal action. He was already serving life sentences for the six murders in Illinois, which were not eligible for the death penalty after it was abolished in Illinois in 2011.
However, family members were unhappy with the decision by Missouri prosecutors not to seek the death penalty after they initially filed notice of intent to press for execution in 2015.