An Illinois judge on Friday sentenced a man accused of killing eight people across two states to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a 2008 slaying.
Judge James Stewart sentenced Nicholas Sheley for his conviction in September in the death of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg. Stewart also gave Sheley concurrent sentences of 30 years for aggravated vehicular hijacking and seven years for possession of a stolen vehicle.
Randall was one of eight people to die in Illinois and Missouri during what's believed to be a killing spree that lasted several days in June 2008. Authorities say Sheley bludgeoned his victims into submission.
A prosecutor said that Sheley killed Randall because he was on the run from the law and needed money and transportation without being reported. Randall's body was found behind a Galesburg grocery store. His pickup truck was stolen and the blood-stained vehicle was later found in an industrial area in St. Louis.
The same day, authorities in Missouri found the bodies of an Arkansas couple behind a gas station in Festus, Mo., near St. Louis.
Sheley pleaded not guilty in all eight killings. Two years ago, he told a judge he wanted to admit guilt in Randall's death, only to change his mind two months later.
During the sentencing hearing, family members told the court through victim impact statements that Randall was a happy man who loved to work in his yard and attended lots of family sporting events.
"The devil is waiting for Nick Sheley," Randall's daughter, Cari Smith, said.
Sheley has pleaded not guilty to killing the Arkansas couple and five other people in Illinois. He next faces trial in Whiteside County, Ill. for the death of 93-year-old Russell Reed of Sterling _ Sheley's hometown _ that could take place as soon as March.
Reed is believed to have been the first victim to die.
Randall's friends and family members released balloons into the air outside the Knox County Courthouse on Friday after the sentences were handed down. Family members then visited Randall's grave.
"Today was the Randall family's day," Knox County State's Attorney John Pepmeyer told WGIL Radio. "It's their day, what we geared for all along."
Smith told The (Galesburg) Register-Mail in an interview that they wished Sheley was eligible for the death penalty. Illinois abolished the death penalty this year after a decade-long moratorium on executions. Missouri still has capital punishment.
"I can't wait until I get the phone call or read the day he's dead," Smith said. "It will be the greatest day after today."
Randall's sister, Dee Connour, said she thought she would feel better after Sheley was convicted, but she is still angry and sad about the crime.
"Sheley should never be able to hurt or kill anyone ever again," she said.
Sheley's trial in Galesburg, about 180 miles southwest of Chicago, was held first because those authorities were the first to file charges.