Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Updates in the Nicholas Sheley Case and His Alleged Partners In Crime

After taking a month or so break from blogging, I'm still catching up on some of the cases I have been following. In this entry I will update you on some of what's been going on in the Nicholas Sheley case, Nick's wife Holly Sheley, his brother Joshua Sheley and Joshua's girlfriend Jenna Henson, as well as his cousin Eric Smith cases.

Katfishponders has been reporting the case of Nicholas Sheley. He is a 29 year old Sterling, IL man accused of a two-state killing spree late June, 2008 that left eight dead. There isn’t enough room to go into all the specifics of this case so let me refer you to previous entries and sources for this case, just click here.

I’ll give a short time line of the killing spree. It’s alleged that Sheley killed Russell Reed, 93, at his home in rural Sterling, IL sometime on June 23 or 24 and 4 days later went to Galesburg where he killed Ronald Randall,65, of Galesburg, IL at a car wash on June 28 and stole his truck.

Sheley then returned to Whiteside County that night where it is alleged he killed four people in a Rock Falls, IL apartment. Sheley allegedly attacked and beat to death two men, (Kenneth Ulve Jr., 25 and Brock Branson, 29), a woman (Kilynna Blake, 20) and Blake's two year old son (Dayan Blake) in the apartment shared by the four.

Next it’s alleged that Sheley drove Randall's truck to Festus, MO, near St. Louis, where Tom and Jill Estes , both 54, of Sherwood AR and visiting the St. Louis area, were brutally beaten in their hotel parking lot late Sunday, June 29. Randall’s truck was found abandoned in St. Louis on June 30. Sheley was later apprehended in Granite City, IL on the evening of July 1.

The first case that Sheley will stand trial is for the death of Ronald Randall 65, Galesburg, IL. If convicted he will face the Death Penalty. He is currently being held on a $10 million bond for the Capital charges and $500,000 bond related to jailhouse assault charges incurred while being held at the Knox County Jail awaiting trial.

On May 29, 2009 during a case management hearing at the Knox County Courthouse, Sheley’s defense team presented six motions citing factors relative to the constitutionality of the Illinois death penalty. Some of the motions dealt with specific language in the state statute that the defense deemed too vague. Two of the motions dealt with the possibility that a future court may overturn the death penalty in Illinois. Ninth Circuit Judge James Stewart denied all the motions stating there is no state authority to declare the death penalty unconstitutional.

I will try to do a full in the courtroom report on this hearing later after getting the motions presented in the hearing….I have a ton of notes.

At his June 2 arraignment for charges stemming from an April 17 altercation with Knox County Jailers, Nicholas Sheley pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial. Judge Stephen Mathers will preside over this matter. A July sixth pre-trial hearing is scheduled with a possible criminal trial date of July 27. If convicted Sheley could be sentenced up to 14 years on the assault charges.



On June 1, Holly E. Sheley, 31, of Sterling, IL (Nicholas Sheley's wife) was making her own appearance before a judge in Whiteside County for a bond reduction hearing. Holly Sheley has been in Whiteside County jail since early April, charged with breaking into a van and stealing CDs and other items.

While Holly Sheley has yet to be charged with anything in relation to the alleged 2008 killing spree perpetrated by her husband some evidence may have come to light that could change that.

Holly Sheley invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to answer when Whiteside County State's Attorney Gary Spencer asked her at the bond reduction hearing whether she was aware that her DNA was in Ronald A. Randall’s truck. If true, it could be evidence that, despite what she has said, Holly Sheley was in more than phone and letter contact with her husband during his alleged 6-day, two-state killing spree last summer.
Given the time line of the killing spree, above, if Holly was in the truck, it would have had to have been right before or after the Rock Falls homicides.

Holly Sheley testified that she has been diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorders, is seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder and is in counseling for alcohol abuse. She said she would continue counseling and submit to random drug and alcohol tests if released.

Her attorney, Whiteside County Public Defender Bill McNeal, said that $250,000 bond is excessive and “beyond her means” and asked that she be released on a recognizance bond. Circuit Judge John Hauptman denied the request.

After the hearing, Spencer declined to say what type of DNA evidence was found, or give any other specifics, citing state Supreme Court rules that prohibit him from commenting on pending cases.



pictured Eric Smith and Joshua Sheley
Three alleged accomplices in the murder of Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling were indicted by a grand jury in Whiteside County July 16, 2008. Eric Smith, 28, of Rock Falls, Joshua J. Sheley, 30, of Rock Falls and Jenna Henson, 20, of Sterling, were charged in connection with helping accused murderer Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, of Sterling, conceal Reed's death.

Smith was charged with one count of being an armed habitual criminal, which carries six to 30 years in prison and two counts of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon which carries three to 14 years in prison.

Joshua Sheley was indicted on one count of concealment of a homicidal death, which carries two to five years in prison, and one count of obstructing justice, which carries one to six years in prison.

Henson, Joshua Sheley's girlfriend, was indicted on two counts of obstructing justice, and faces up to three years in prison. Here is the most recent activity related to their cases:

Joshua Sheley and Jenna Henson

Joshua Sheley, the brother of spree-killing defendant Nicholas T. Sheley, will be the first person to go to trial in connection with the death of 93-year-old Russell Reed, Sterling. Reed was the first victim in the 2008 killing spree.

Joshua Sheley, 31, waived his right to a trial by jury and instead will have a bench trial starting Sept. 23. The trial is expected to last at least 3 days.

During a bench trial, a judge alone hears the evidence and renders a verdict.

Joshua Sheley faces two charges: concealing a homicidal death, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and obstructing justice, which carries a prison term of up to 6 years.

On June 24, Joshua Sheley allegedly called Jenna Henson, 21, and asked whether he could park a 2003 Buick Century in her driveway. Russell Reed, the owner of the car, was discovered 2 days later in the trunk of his car in Henson's driveway.

The next day, the Sheley brothers and Henson allegedly drove to Chicago to throw away a pair of bloody shoes. Joshua Sheley told his brother he was “going to get him out of trouble,” according to court documents.

Henson is charged with obstructing justice for allegedly telling police that she knew nothing about Reed’s car being parked in her driveway and that she had not seen Nicholas Sheley in 5 years.


Eric Smith
Eric Smith recently gave an interview at the Morrison jailhouse visiting room that was published in the SaukValley News. I'll just post a copy of that report as it appeared(although a correction later published was inserted) on saukvalley.com :

Sheley Co-defendant Speaks Out


MORRISON – Eric A. Smith, the Rock Falls man once accused of helping his cousin ditch the blood-soaked shirt said to have been worn during the first of eight rampage killings committed nearly a year ago, says he did nothing wrong.

If anything, the lifelong criminal and self-described gang member believes he should be commended for leading detectives to the bloody clothes left on his front porch and to a stolen gun investigators believed could help them ID the killer.

From behind the thick glass of a Morrison jailhouse visiting room, Smith said he feels duped – told that cooperation would guarantee his freedom, then tossed into the justice system grinder because authorities were embarrassed that their primary suspect, Nicholas T. Sheley, was free on bail.

“I want somebody to tell me what I’m doing here,” he said. “They told me I was doing the right thing. ... I was under the [impression] this was helping their case with Nick – not me.”

Smith has been locked up since June 27, when he turned himself in for questioning in connection with the murder of Russell Reed that his cousin Sheley now stands accused of committing during a 7-day, two-state killing spree.

Obstruction of justice charges alleging Smith helped Sheley cover up the murder have been withdrawn, but the convicted felon remains in jail for possession of the Rohm .22 caliber revolver police say Sheley stole during the first 3 days of his alleged spree.

If convicted on the three gun counts, Smith faces 10 to 40 years in prison.

“I’m not scared of prison. I’m not scared of [expletive]. If I’m guilty, come on with it – I’ll do my time,” Smith said. “But I’m not going down for something I didn’t do.”

The obstruction charge was dropped shortly after the Illinois Attorney General’s Office joined the team of prosecutors handling the case.

A spokeswoman declined to say whether the AG’s office asked to have the charge dropped, citing a Knox County judge’s gag order on the Sheley case there in declining to discuss Smith’s prosecution here.

“As you are aware, there is a gag order on the case,” spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. “And in any case we cannot discuss prosecution strategy.”

Whiteside County State’s Attorney Gary Spencer also declined to comment on the Smith case.

“Thank you for your questions, but as you know, I am not able to discuss pending cases,” Spencer wrote in response to an e-mail.

SMITH TURNED HIMSELF IN June 27, the same day police folded him into a statewide manhunt for Sheley.

“I talked with my family – my mom, dad and grandma convinced me, ‘If you didn’t commit no crimes, turn yourself in.’”

The saga started 4 days before Smith walked into a frantic Rock Falls Police Department.

That’s when, according to law enforcement, Sheley killed 93-year-old retired farmer and widower Russell Reed, hitting him in the head with a blunt metal object in his own rural Sterling farmhouse.

Three days passed before anyone knew Reed was dead. With Reed’s body in the trunk of his own 2003 Buick Century, Sheley went to Smith’s Rock Falls house and asked for a shower and a change of clothes, Smith said.

“I didn’t ask no questions. He’s family, you know?” Smith said. “He left the bag [of bloody clothes] on the picnic table out front and left. ... He didn’t say nothing.”

Smith said he didn’t know about the body and didn’t know Nick was a murder suspect until the two returned from Chicago and saw that police were looking for him, as well.

On that trip, investigators have said, Sheley ditched some evidence before buying drugs and coming back to Rock Falls.

“I thought we were going to party,” Smith said. “Nick never mentioned nothing.”

AS SMITH DESCRIBED the feeling of being locked up with no idea why, he started to speak with more body language.

His thick arms spread out. He inched forward in his seat. His deep brown eyes widened.

“I feel for the victims. Don’t get me wrong: I tried to help the Reed family. I tried to prevent the alleged Brock Branson murders. ... Every question they asked, I answered.”

The victims’ families “come to court and sit behind Gary Spencer. What is that? He’s the one who let Nick out on an I-bond” – slang for the no-money-down bond Sheley was free on at the time he is alleged to have committed the eight murders.

“No one’s taking responsibility on that end,” Smith said. “Spencer was so worried about going after some black guys from Chicago that he let his time get away from him.”

Smith was referring to the Illinois law that says suspects cannot be held more than 120 days without being brought to trial.

Sheley was charged, but never prosecuted, for allegedly forcing his way into the home of a 98-year-old Sterling woman and ordering her to write checks in his name.

Smith said he knew about the alleged home invasion and always thought it was strange that Sheley, a man with a lengthy rap sheet, was walking the street without bail.

During the 3 days of interviews, detectives “started grilling me about these alleged Branson murders. ... I didn’t even know they happened until detectives told me about them. I was in jail for 3 days,” Smith said.

Court records show that an arrest warrant was signed at 10:25 p.m. June 27, about 4 hours after he surrendered.

Leading the sheriff’s investigation was Whiteside County Detective Robert Luyando, a 38-year-old championship weightlifter suspended without pay in December after being charged with domestic battery in Lee County.

Prosecutors dropped the charges in April, but Luyando still must face the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Merit Commission on charges stemming from the Lee County case, as well as charges of insubordination. A hearing date has not been set.

After the questioning, Smith was sent back to the Illinois Department of Corrections for 10 months on a parole violation. He said it was for a failing a urine test because of the drugs he took while in Chicago.

Smith is no choirboy: At 29, he’s already been sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison. His first incarceration was 2 years in juvenile detention for aggravated battery. Since he turned 18, the longest he has been a free man is 9 months.

He prides himself on the street gang code of silence. “My life is in danger cooperating with these people [investigators].”

AT HIS MOST RECENT hearing, Luyando testified that Smith cooperated fully with investigators.

After he turned himself in, Smith was interviewed three times by Luyando and another investigator. He told them he had the .22 caliber revolver and .22 ammunition. Investigators say Sheley stole the revolver from a house in Rock Falls after Reed’s body was found.

A grand jury handling the case dropped the obstruction charge and instead indicted Smith for being a felon in possession of guns and ammo.

When asked by a grand juror why Smith would reveal such incriminating evidence, Luyando said Smith waived his right to an attorney, cooperated with police and revealed where the guns were.

Most of the evidence to obtain a bill of indictment against Smith came from Luyando’s testimony, argued his attorney, Theron Burrall.

In his motion to dismiss, Burall alleged “perjured grand jury testimony” from Luyando.

More than that, Smith said Luyando offered him a deal: Tell us where the gun and clothes are, and you can walk.

Smith says he still wonders what happened.

So readers, a couple questions....Do you think Holly Sheley will or should be charged with anything related to the deaths in Rock Falls? Do you think Eric Smith was "wronged" by law enforcement? Should the police be able to lie to a suspect to get cooperation? Do you notice any similarities in the "tone" of Eric Smith's jailhouse interview and Nicholas Sheley's jailhouse interview....for that matter Holly Sheley's jailhouse interview and letter to Sauk Valley News? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Sphere: Related Content


  1. Holy cow! How many more twists and turns can there be?

    Great reporting katfish!

  2. Thanks donchais!
    Nothing surprises me with this case anymore. We may find a lot more twists and turns though as this goes to court....Illinois holds a lot of discovery close to the vest and the gag order has helped prevent much from being released. Stay tuned....

  3. Thanks for the updates. Not sure about the Illinois system but Sheley will get what is coming to him in Missouri.

  4. Anon July 1,
    You are so right and I too am counting on that!

    The last I heard, Missouri hadn't decided whether they would seek the death penalty....but the State's Attorney was quoted as saying, "It's on the table...right in the middle of the table".

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. This whole family of evil self seeking demons have been allowed far to much time to play with our justice system. Taking years to bring them to (justice)makes my tears bleed.This is even more unnessesary then the crimes they chose to commit.Our loved ones deserve so much more. I would rather take every moment remembering and talking about the beautiful people we have lost than tring to play the game of why who when that doesnt matter anymore.The Sheley people deserve nothing Nothing at all.

  6. Anon July 8-

    The wheels of justice turn very slow and having been on the victim's side of the justice system, I know how frustrating it can be.

    As an avid trial watcher I have learned that the adage "Justice delayed is justice denied" really only applies in the civil courts...justice will eventually be done.

    There are many folks who have an interest in our court system. Blogging about criminal trials and those who are moving through our justice system provides an avenue for those who are interested to follow cases they might not know about through their local media or have an interest in but aren't close enough to see for themselves.

    While during the progression of a criminal case the "talk" is often more about the accused than the victim(s), the long term goal is to see there is justice for the victims and their loved ones and also to reassure ourselves through a review of the evidence that the right person is convicted.

    Katfishponders welcomes any comments about victims and sharing their wonderful memories. We do not welcome any bashing of victims at any time and those comments will not be posted here.

    Thank you for commenting, your opinions are valued here!


  8. Anon sept.21,
    Obviously you care about Jenna. For the record,
    I don't think Jenna deserves to be hated. She is young and made bad choices.

    She is also most likely going to pay for those bad decisions. I hope she is smart enough to help herself by cooperating with the state in prosecuting the others. They certainly didn't care what would happen to her.

    Having said that, I don't know if I believe that she wasn't aware something bad had happened when they were on the way to and from Chicago. I do tend to believe she didn't know Mr. Reed was in the trunk of that car.....it doesn't make sense to lie if she knew the body was in the car....lying incriminated her. This is all up to a jury to decide unless she can get some sort of plea deal or decides to go with a bench trial.
    Most of all I hope she learns to pick her friends more carefully and not "just get caught up in things". She is an adult and responsible for her choices and actions.
    Thanks for commenting.

  9. i personally know eric and yeah he's did some crazy things but i seriously dont think he should be in that much trouble he DID help the police investigation with the gun hell eric didn't even have to say where the gun was but he wanted it to be over with as for nick fry the S>O>B they say he is totally different well no crap his cousin just killed 8 people and he is scared

  10. Anon 12/2 8:22 AM-
    Thanks for commenting. I am interested in hearing your thoughts. I don't know if we will agree on everything or anything for that matter but I respect your right to your opinion.

    An area that we seem to agree is that Nick Sheley is an SOB! Not only did he involve his cousin and brother and Josh's then-girlfriend in the coverup of Mr.Reed's murder,if he honestly did so without them knowing what he had done that just makes him a bigger asshole. He could have easily disposed of evidence without involving anyone else.

    The purpose of this blog is not to try and convict the accused before they have their day in court. That doesn't mean we can't talk about the case though.

    Having said that, Eric did make some really bad choices. He accepted that gun knowing he couldn't legally do so (because of prior convictions)and went to Chicago to party and do drugs with Nick after he showed up in bloody clothes with a gun....hello....he had to know there was trouble to follow.
    Eric does seem to have made some good choices too. The fact he turned himself in and cooperated with police as well as leading them to the gun should be very helpful if he is convicted as charged. Being realistic,the gun WAS found in Eric's house, LE most likely would have obtained a search warrant for his house just based on their prior knowledge he had went to Chicago with Nick. So it seems fair to ask,
    was Eric helping LE with the case or helping

    Eric had a pre-trial hearing today on some motions filed by his attorney. I haven't heard the outcome of that yet.

    Lastly I hope Eric does turn his life around and take responsibility for his choices. That is the first step in growing up and living a "clean" life. He is still a young man.

    Got another twist for ya! Josh Sheeley was just arrested after a 6hr standoff in Sterling after robbing a gas station. Check www.saukvalley.com for more details.

  12. HI sorry4utaken!

    I just finished answering an e-mail about this. I really appreciate folks letting me know....my internet just came back on....went out at 5pm last night.grrrr....
    I'll do an entry about this tonight because many readers here may be interested.I didn't know there was a standoff. For now I'll just c&p part of my e-mail response here. The person I was responding to had the same questions as you and complaints about the media coverage.(saying this so that my response makes sense)


    It sounds to me like ~maybe~ the warrant was issued for him because he fleed on 5/20 but they didn't actually catch up to him until July 6 to arrest him. The officer must have known Sheley was revoked or learned JS's licence was revoked when the court issued the warrant on 5/21. I don't think that the media reports on warrants being issued in most cases, they just report the arrest. I would expect a report
    from Sauk.valley.com tonight. I know their crime beat reporter is hard at
    it......newspapers all over the country are broke I don't imagine they are an exception.....too few reporters or too much crime? Too much crime, too few reporters.;)

    I do understand what you are saying, about your community being worried about retribution. I
    don't know the history of Sheleys and the community, but their backgrounds
    are extensive in the justice system. I hope fear doesn't keep someone from
    testifying if Josh was involved in the robbery. He shouldn't be crucified for his brother's sins, but it sounds to me like he has his own impulse control issues that can cause alot of trouble and will land him in jail again. I
    think the bond is $100,000.....so he needs $10,000 to bail out.

    According to the article you linked, the reason he was finally captured was
    because the K9 dogs took them to him on the robbery. Whether he was involved
    in the robbery remains to be seen, but it got him caught regardless. I guess
    LE finally caught a break. The attempted robbery was at 12:25 today and he
    was just arrested so there may be more charges coming, whether or not the
    charges will be his remains to be seen...... birds of a feather flock
    together IDK

  13. one of the men that this creature murdered was my uncle ronnie. my dads his brother.my dads side of the family is all from illinois but we grew up in texas. i can only remember my uncle ronnie and uncle bill. growing up my uncle ronnie use to come down all the time and bring us frizzbees. i had just talked to my uncle ronnie 2 wks before this creature took him from us. he was telling me about his stroke he had after he started feeling better he was gonna make a trip to texas. he loved going on the ferry ride to get to padre island beach. i miss u uncle ronnie. i hope they fry the creature or let us randall family alone with him for 1 min.

  14. Well said Michelle! Noone can take those wonderful memories from you! I know your aunts, awesome ladies!
    Go to label section on right lower part of page, click on Nicholas Sheley. All reports I've done on his cases, will come up from newest to oldest.

  15. Holly now going with last name of Gaul. She has been arrested twice this year on credit card theft charges in Ogle county. People, beware!