- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (AP) - The judge overseeing the murder trial of a man accused in the 2008 beating deaths of four people in northwest Illinois acknowledged Friday that he had dozed off, then allowed court to resume.

The defense attorney for Nicholas Sheley pointed out after a lunch recess that Judge Jeffrey O’Connor had fallen asleep while a videotaped deposition played. Sheley is on trial in the slayings of two men, a woman and a 2-year-old boy who were beaten with a hammer in a Rock Falls apartment in June 2008. Their slayings are among eight that authorities allege Sheley committed in Illinois and Missouri over seven days.

Prosecutors on Friday showed the videotaped deposition of a worker at a Galesburg gasoline station who said he saw Sheley shaking and covered with blood on June 28, 2008.

Defense attorney Jeremy Karlin said he had noticed the judge sleeping while the tape was shown as well as on other occasions. Karlin said he wanted it in the court record.

O’Connor acknowledged Karlin’s observation but said he’s able to preside over the trial.

Sheley has pleaded not guilty to killing 29-year-old Brock Branson; 20-year-old Kilynna Blake; her son, 2-year-old Dayan; and 25-year-old Kenneth Ulve.

Prosecutors say he then went to the apartment in Rock Falls, first killing Ulve and then waiting for the others to return before attacking them. Sheley, who is from Sterling, believed Branson was having an affair with Sheley’s then-wife, prosecutors have said.

They contend he committed the Rock Falls slayings just hours after killing 65-year-old Ronald Randall in Galesburg, Illinois, and stealing Randall’s truck. Sheley has already been convicted in Randall’s killing.

Between Randall’s death and the slayings in Rock Falls, Sheley went to the Galesburg gas station, prosecutors say. The gas station attendant’s deposition and other testimony about the Rock Falls slaying are being offered because it’s all part of the “complicated cocktail” of forensic evidence that links him to the Rock Falls deaths, prosecutors said.

The clothing Sheley is seen wearing in surveillance video at the gas station, and shown to the court Friday, was later found in the Rock Falls apartment, covered in blood, as were two cigarette butts, according to prosecutors.

According to authorities, Sheley first killed Russell Reed, 93, of Sterling, as he searched for money to buy cocaine. He is serving life sentences for the slayings of Randall and Reed.

After the Rock Falls slayings, he allegedly killed an Arkansas couple in a hotel parking lot in Festus, Missouri, on June 29, 2008. He is awaiting trial in the deaths of Jill and Tom Estes, both 54, and could face the death penalty for those killings. Illinois does not have the death penalty.


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