Ill. man accused in 8 slayings guilty in 1st trial

By the Associated Press | September 19, 2011 | 8:05 PM EDT

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2011 file photo, Nicholas Sheley is escorted to the Knox County Courthouse in Galesburg, Ill., for the start of his first trial for murder. Sheley is accused of killing 65-year-old Ronald Randall of Galesburg in June 2008 along with seven other people in Illinois and Missouri. On Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, jurors in Knox County deliberated for less than an hour before finding Sheley guilty of murder in Randall's death. (AP Photo/The Register-Mail, Nick Adams, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) — Jurors took less than an hour Monday to convict an Illinois man of murder in the death of one of eight people he's accused of bludgeoning to death across two states.

Nicholas Sheley, who is accused in a June 2008 killing spree, was found guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg. Sheley also was convicted of aggravated vehicular hijacking and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Prosecutors had rested their case earlier in the day and Sheley's defense attorney said he wouldn't call any witnesses.

Randall was one of eight people in Illinois and Missouri who died over a long few days in June 2008 at the hands, investigators say, of a killer who bludgeoned his victims into bloody submission.

The trial in Randall's death was held first because authorities in Galesburg filed the first charges against Sheley. Trials in the other deaths have yet to be scheduled.

Investigators have said they believe the first person to die was 93-year-old Russell Reed. He was found dead on June 26, 2008, in the trunk of his car in Sterling, Sheley's hometown.

Four days later, the bodies of Brock Branson, 29, Kenneth Ulve, 25, Kilynna Blake, 20, and Blake's 2-year-old son, Dayan, were found in an apartment in Rock Falls.

That same day, Randall was found behind a Galesburg grocery store and a Sherwood, Ark., couple attending a graduation in Missouri were found behind a gas station in Festus, south of St. Louis. Jill and Tom Estes were both 54.

Sheley was arrested outside a Granite City bar the next day.

According to police, Sheley was acquainted with some of those killed in the Rock Falls apartment, but the rest of the killings appeared to be random — people whose paths crossed with that of a man on the run.

Sheley has pleaded not guilty in all eight killings but told a judge in September 2009 he wanted to admit guilt in Randall's death, only to change his mind two months later.

Sheley is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 18.