CHICAGO – The ex-convict suspected of bludgeoning eight people to death all but ensured his capture Tuesday when he called his attorney from a Subway restaurant in Granite City, Ill.
The call was the last of multiple phone calls Nicholas Sheley, 28, had with his lawyer that day, a person close to the investigation told The Associated Press.
The source, who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the attorney was talking to Sheley at the FBI's direction.
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Authorities quickly determined where Sheley made the call and descended on the area. They arrested him minutes later outside a nearby bar.
A Subway employee says Sheley was dirty and looked like he hadn't eaten for days but appeared calm.
Sheley remained jailed on $1 million bail Thursday, when he was transferred from one prison to another.
He appeared at a brief court hearing Wednesday via a video feed from a jail in southwestern Illinois, not far from where he'd been captured a day earlier as he smoked a cigarette outside a bar.
Judge Edward Ferguson read Sheley the first-degree murder, aggravated battery and vehicular hijacking charges that accuse him of the beating death of 65-year-old Ronald Randall. Randall's body was found Monday behind a grocery store in Knox County in the northwestern part of the state.
Sheley said he understood the charges and could not afford the $100,000 necessary to post his $1 million bail. The judge then ordered Sheley held until Knox County authorities could pick him up.
Authorities believe Sheley killed seven other people in the past week, including a 93-year-old man and a 2-year-old child. He is charged in only two of the eight deaths, but authorities say evidence links him to each crime scene.
Sheley has had several brushes with the law, including a pending home invasion case, and has spent time in jail. But investigators said the brutality of the killings — the victims were bashed with blunt objects — has left them puzzled about Sheley's motives.
They said they're not ruling out drug abuse as a possible factor, though Sheley had no drugs on him when he was captured.
"In this day and age drugs are always involved, (but) at this point we've got no way of knowing if he was high or not," said Ron Potthoff, police chief in Sheley's hometown of Sterling, where he was well known to law enforcement.
FBI investigators said they believe Sheley stopped in Chicago during the past week to buy drugs.
Sheley's uncle, Joe Sheley, 47, said his nephew recently struggled with drugs, including crack cocaine.
"He's been in trouble many times over the years, but something like this, yeah, it's out of character," he said.
Sheley's wife, Holly, told Sauk Valley Newspapers that her husband was a good man — when he was clean and sober.
"This is not Nick," she told the newspaper after authorities sought Sheley in connection with the first killing. "Without drugs, without alcohol, Nick is kindhearted. He's caring. He has respect for people."
Meanwhile, authorities in western Illinois issued a warrant for Sheley's arrest for the murder of 93-year-old Russell Reed. The body of Reed, the first of the eight killed, was found one week ago in the trunk of a car, police say.
Investigators say Sheley is a suspect in the slayings of six others: two men, a woman and 2-year-old child, whose remains were discovered Monday in an apartment in Rock Falls; and a couple whose bodies were found Monday behind a gas station in a Missouri suburb of St. Louis.
Sheley was acquainted with the male victims from Rock Falls, which is just across the Rock River from his hometown, said Illinois State Police Region Two Commander Mark Maton.