- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

HILLSBORO, Mo. (AP) - A 35-year-old man serving life sentences for six Illinois slayings wants to move a murder trial that could lead to his execution to another place in Missouri.

In his request for a venue change, Nicholas Sheley said he can’t get a fair trial in Jefferson County south of St. Louis, where prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if he’s convicted in the killings of Jill and Tom Estes of Sherwood, Arkansas. Police say the couple was attacked outside a Festus hotel after leaving a 2008 graduation party.

Sheley was scheduled to make his first Missouri court appearance Monday, but his arraignment was postponed after the judge stepped down at Sheley’s request.

Court records don’t indicate why Circuit Judge Mark Stoll withdrew, but under Missouri law Sheley didn’t have to explain why he asked. His petition was filed within the 10-day deadline for such requests.

His St. Louis-based public defender, who has previously cited office policy in declining to discuss the case, could not be reached for comment Monday. Jefferson County prosecutors also were not available.



Sheley was extradited to Missouri in February from Illinois, where he was found guilty in a string of killings that began in his Illinois hometown of Sterling.

Four victims who had been bludgeoned with a hammer were found in a Rock Falls apartment. They ranged in age from 2 years to 29. The other victims were a 65-year-old man whose body was found behind a Galesburg grocery store in northwestern Illinois and a 93-year-old man killed in Sterling

Unlike in Illinois, offenders can be sentenced to death in neighboring Missouri. A June court filing outlining the state’s decision to pursue the death penalty cites Sheley’s convictions in the six Illinois killings as well as three other aggravating circumstances, including his attempt to rob the Arkansas couple while committing an “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman” killing.

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Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at https://twitter.com/azagier

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