Suspect in 8 deaths wants to change plea to guilty -

Suspect in 8 deaths wants to change plea to guilty

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) -- A man charged in a two-state killing spree that left eight people dead in Illinois and Missouri unexpectedly told a judge Tuesday that he wants to plead guilty.

Nicholas Sheley last year pleaded not guilty to killing 65-year-old Ronald Randall of Galesburg in June 2008. He is charged with murder in seven other killings the same month -- two in Missouri and five in Illinois.

Sheley, a 30-year-old native of Sterling was in court Tuesday for a hearing on a motion dismiss 16 of the 17 charges against him in Randall's death.

But as the hearing began, Sheley told Judge James Stewart, "Your honor, I'd like to change my plea to guilty."

The judge asked Sheley's attorney, John Hanlon, if he wanted to break to talk with his client. Hanlon declined, but Stewart eventually ordered him to talk Sheley about the statement and said he would consider the matter at a hearing next month or in early November.

Last week, according to the Sterling Daily Gazette, a letter was admitted into evidence in another of the cases in which Sheley reportedly says he wants to plead guilty in that case. Sheley is charged with murder in the death of 93-year old Russell Reed of Sterling.

Stewart later declined to dismiss any charges against Sheley.

Sheley has at times during the two cases facing him in Knox County asked for new counsel, been vocally critical of the judge during hearings and, on one occasion, been dragged from the courtroom by guards. In addition to the murder case, he faces assault charges over a jailhouse incident.

In other cases being tried separately, Sheley is charged with murder in the deaths of Kenneth Ulve, 25, Brock Branson, 29, Branson's fiancee, Kilynna Blake, 20, and her 2-year-old son, Dayan Blake in a Rock Falls apartment. The town and Sterling are in Whiteside County community in northwestern Illinois.

Sheley is also charged with murder in the deaths of Tom and Jill Estes, an Arkansas couple who were killed in Missouri.

Prosecutors in Knox County are seeking the death penalty in Randall's slaying.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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