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Court proceedings begin for killing-spree suspect

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[July 03, 2008]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Now that the multistate manhunt has ended, legal wrangling has begun over an ex-convict suspected in a killing spree that left eight people dead in Illinois and Missouri.

Nicholas T. Sheley appeared at a brief court hearing Wednesday via a video feed from a jail in southwestern Illinois, not far from where he'd been captured a day earlier as he smoked a cigarette outside a bar.

ChiropracticJudge Edward Ferguson read Sheley the first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking charges that accuse him of the beating death of 65-year-old Ronald Randall. Randall's body was found Monday behind a grocery store in Knox County in the northwestern part of the state.

Sheley, 28, said he understood the charges and could not afford the $100,000 necessary to post his $1 million bail. The judge then ordered Sheley held until Knox County authorities could pick him up.

Authorities believe Sheley, 28, killed seven other people in the past week, including a 93-year-old man and a 2-year-old child. He is charged in only two of the eight deaths, but authorities say evidence links him to each crime scene.

Sheley has had several brushes with the law, including a pending home invasion case, and has spent time in jail. But investigators said the brutality of the killings -- the victims were bashed with blunt objects -- has left them puzzled about Sheley's motives.


They said they're not ruling out drug abuse as a possible factor, though Sheley had no drugs on him when he was captured.

"In this day and age drugs are always involved, (but) at this point we've got no way of knowing if he was high or not," said Ron Potthoff, police chief in Sheley's hometown of Sterling, where he was well known to law enforcement.

FBI investigators said they believe Sheley stopped in Chicago during the past week to buy drugs.

Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, said his nephew recently struggled with drugs, including crack cocaine.

"He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character," he said.

Sheley's wife, Holly, told Sauk Valley Newspapers that her husband was a good man -- when he was clean and sober.

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"This is not Nick," she told the newspaper after authorities sought Sheley in connection with the first killing. "Without drugs, without alcohol, Nick is kindhearted. He's caring. He has respect for people."

Meanwhile, authorities in western Illinois issued a warrant for Sheley's arrest for the murder of 93-year-old Russell Reed. The body of Reed, the first of the eight killed, was found one week ago in the trunk of a car, police say.

Investigators say Sheley is a suspect in the slayings of six others: two men, a woman and 2-year-old child, whose remains were discovered Monday in an apartment in Rock Falls; and a couple whose bodies were found Monday behind a gas station in a Missouri suburb of St. Louis.


Sheley was acquainted with the male victims from Rock Falls, which is just across the Rock River from his hometown, said Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton.

[Associated Press; By DON BABWIN]

Associated Press writers Jim Suhr in Granite City and Ashley M. Heher in Chicago contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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