MORRISON – Nicholas T. Sheley beat 93-year-old Russell Reed to death before stuffing his body in the trunk of his car, a Whiteside County jury decided this afternoon.
The eight men and four women deliberated less than 3 hours before finding Sheley, 33, of Sterling, guilty of eight counts of first-degree murder and one count each of home invasion and residential burglary.
The verdict was read about 3 p.m.
He will be sentenced Jan. 16; he faces life in prison without parole.
Sheley killed Reed on June 23, 2008, in the rural Blue Goose Road home where he lived alone. He stole Reed's wallet, his checkbook, and the 2003 Buick Century in which Reed's was found 3 days later, parked at the home of Sheley's brother's girlfriend.
A murder weapon was not identified, but a forensic pathologist testified that Reed had been struck at least 18 times and died from blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and chest.
A Schilling Funeral Home worker found Reed's wallet and checkbook under a pile of twigs and wet leaves behind the Sterling funeral home several weeks later.
Witnesses testified last week that Sheley was wearing bloody clothes the night Reed was killed. His fingerprint was found on the interior window of the Buick and his DNA was on a cigarette butt found on Reed's kitchen table.
The day Reed's body was found, Sheley stole a white Lincoln Continental from a home in rural Rock Falls and later led Dixon Police and a Lee County sheriff's deputy on a high-speed car chase that ended at a field near Harmon.
When officers approached the Lincoln 2 hours later, Sheley had disappeared.
Sheley next killed Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, on June 28, 2008. He was convicted in Randall's death last year and was sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors say he then returned to the area and killed Brock Branson, 29, his fiancee Kilynna Blake, her 2-year-old son Dayan, and Kenneth Ulve, 25, in a Rock Falls apartment on June 28; and Arkansas couple Jill and Tom Estes in a parking lot in Festus, Mo., the next day.