MISSING AND MURDERED IN THE MIDWEST: A podcast looking into crimes that made the headlines, starting in the Quad City area, and expanding throughout the Midwest. Podcast host and News 8 Executive Producer Toria Wilson, has dedicated her time into researching and looking back at stories News 8 has reported on, the murder cases that shocked us and the missing persons cases that left us with unanswered questions.
EPISODE 5: In less than three weeks, Nicholas Sheley’s killing spree spanned at least five cities in Illinois and Missouri. Left in his path, were eight victims, all brutally beaten to death.
It all began June 14, 2008 when Sheley robbed an elderly woman of cash and checks in her home.
A few days later on June 23 Sheley would go to the home of 93-year-old Russell Reed. Sheley beat the elderly man to death and took his cash and checks.
He then threw Reed’s body into the trunk of Reed’s truck and abandoned the vehicle. A forensic pathologist would later testify that the 93-year-old died after suffering a dozen blows, possibly by the leg of a wooden stool.
Five days after that incident, on June 28, Sheley stole a uniform and vehicle from Illinois Oil Products and went to Galesburg, Illinois.
He made a stop at Southards Car Wash encountering 65-year-old Ronald Randall. Randall would be bludgeoned to death, suffering a dozen blows to the hands, elbows, head and more.
His body was dumped by the dumpsters behind the local Hy-Vee not to be discovered until three days later.
Around 11 p.m. Nicholas Sheley arrived back in the Sterling-Rock Falls area, driving to the apartment of 29-year-old Brock Branson.
Sheley first beats Branson’s roommate to death, 25-year-old Kenneth Ulve, with a hammer. Sheley then attacks Branson, 20-year-old Kilynna Blake and her 2-year-old son Dayan.
Branson’s parents found their bodies after their phone calls went unreturned for two days.
“I looked down and I saw [Kilynna] and the top of her head and she wasn’t moving, and she was covered in blood,” Dallas Branson said in court. ” I hollered and said Brock but got no answer, then I really got nervous. I looked up a little bit farther and I seen [sic] two little legs.”
“I said they’re gone, they’re all dead and she [his wife, Connie] wanted to go up and I said no,” Dallas would later testify.
Connie describing that moment her husband told her the news, “He came back down and he was nervous. He said they’re dead, they’re dead.”
Sheley left the Sterling-Rock Falls area one last time and headed to Festus, Missouri. He reportedly was searching for a former prison pen pal. When he can’t find the woman he had once been writing to, he drove to a nearby hotel.
He encountered 54-year-olds Tom and Jill Estes, who had just arrived back at the hotel from a graduation party. Sheley immediately attacked the couple and beat them to death. He loaded their bodies and dropped them behind a gas station dumpster a few miles away.
Sheley is finally arrested on July 1, 2008, outside of a bar in Granite City, Illinois.
For the next nine years, Sheley is in and out of courtrooms. His final trial, in Missouri, ended in 2017.
In this week’s episode we break down everything that happened during the weeks long crime spree between these two states. We also talk about how Sheley was able to avoid the death penalty in both states.
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Something to note, that is not in the podcast, there is a difference between a spree killer, mass murderer and serial killer.
- A spree killer, as Sheley is described, is someone who kills two or more victims in a short time, in more than two locations.
- A mass murderer kills four or more people at one location during one continuous period of time, whether it be minutes or days.
- Serial killers murder three or more victims, but each victim is killed at separate locations, with “cooling off” periods in between crimes.