MORRISON – Twice-convicted killer Nicholas Sheley got his wish: His next murder trial is being moved out of Whiteside County.
Judge Jeffrey O’Connor has transferred the trial to Rock Island County.
In March, Sheley’s attorney, Jeremy Karlin, filed a request for a change of venue, contending pretrial publicity and “community outrage” would taint the jury pool and prevent Sheley from getting a fair trial.
State’s Attorney Trish Joyce, who is prosecuting the case, said she had believed the judge would grant the request to move the trial because of publicity during Sheley’s first Whiteside County trial. He did so April 12.
“It did not make sense to waste time and resources litigating the motion,” Joyce said in an email Monday. “Rock Island County has a much larger pool of potential jurors from which to draw in order to ensure that a fair trial may be had.”
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee has volunteered his assistance and office space, so the move isn’t expected to present any real hardship for the state, Joyce said.
Pretrial proceedings will continue to take place in Whiteside County.
Sheley, 33, of Sterling, is set to stand trial Oct. 15 in the deaths of Brock Branson, 29; his fiancee Kilynna Blake, 20; her 2-year-old son Dayan; and Kenneth Ulve, 25.
In January, Sheley was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the bludgeoning death of Russell Reed, 93, of rural Sterling.
Sheley earlier was sentenced to life without parole in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg. Sheley has appealed that sentence.
He is accused of 15 counts of first-degree murder in the Rock Falls case.
In March, Karlin filed a motion to move the trial, saying news coverage of the case had been “highly prejudicial” to his client’s chances of a fair trial. He noted the last case was conducted under new rules allowing photos and video to be taken of the pretrial and trial proceedings.
“The potential jury pool of Whiteside County has been exposed to a barrage of highly prejudicial material that includes inflammatory, inaccurate and inadmissible material,” Karlin wrote in his request.
Sheley’s requests for change of venue in his two previous trials were denied.
In a hearing last month, O’Connor delayed Sheley’s trial by 4 months to October. Karlin, over his client’s objections, requested the delay, saying he had yet to receive a list of witnesses and evidence from prosecutors, and as such, he wouldn’t be ready to try the case in June.
Joyce had no objection as long as the delay wouldn’t be assessed against the state.
Sheley’s next hearing in the Rock Falls case is June 4 at the Whiteside County Courthouse in Morrison.