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Call from homicide suspect set up his arrest

Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 10:43 p.m. CDT; updated 9:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CHICAGO — As the manhunt for the ex-con suspected of bludgeoning eight people to death in Missuri and Illinois wound down, a disheveled Nicholas T. Sheley walked calmly into a Subway sandwich shop, asked to use the phone and called his lawyer — all but ensuring his capture.

He bummed a light and had a cigarette with a restaurant employee, inquiring about clubs in Granite City, an Illinois town near St. Louis. The employee pointed him to Bindy's bar, where authorities converged and arrested Sheley minutes later.

The Tuesday night phone call from Subway was the last of multiple conversations Sheley had with the attorney, who was under the direction of the FBI, a person close to the investigation told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Sheley had called a family member earlier that day and said he wanted to talk to his lawyer, the person said Thursday.

Sheley, 28, is suspected of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri in the past week, including a 93-year-old man stuffed in a car trunk, a 2-year-old child found in an apartment with three others and an Arkansas couple attending a graduation celebration in Missouri. He is charged in only two of the eight killings, but authorities say evidence links him to each crime scene.

On Thursday, Sheley was transferred from Madison County east of St. Louis to Knox County in western Illinois, where he made his first court appearance there in the slaying of 65-year-old Ronald Randall.

During the brief hearing, a judge upheld his $1 million bond. Sheley, who is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery, waived his right to a public defender and indicated he would seek private counsel.

While it remained unclear how many telephone calls Sheley made while he was being sought, and to whom, one of his last ones came at 6 p.m.

Cassie Bosomworth was working in the Subway restaurant when a man who turned out to be Sheley approached her, asking if he could use the phone.

"He was really dirty, had on a white T-shirt and jeans, construction worker dirty, (and) he looked like he hadn't ate in days," Bosomworth said.

The man, carrying plastic shopping bags, told Bosomworth that another employee said he could use the phone. Bosomworth later learned from the other employee that Sheley had asked him to use his cell phone, and to borrow a lighter for a cigarette.

"He asked for a pair of gloves, too, which was weird," she said, adding that Sheley never explained why he wanted them.

Bosomworth said he made two calls, each of which lasted less than a minute. She didn't hear what the man said. A few seconds after the man left, the phone rang.

The man calling asked for the Subway's address. Bosomworth said the man did not identify himself, but he was calling from the number that Sheley had called. A call to that number by the AP was answered by attorney James Mertes, who said it was his cell phone.

Mertes, who has represented Sheley several times and is his lawyer in a pending 2007 home invasion case, confirmed that he had talked to Sheley more than once. But he would not say how many times or what the two discussed.

Meanwhile, authorities said Thursday they have yet to determine what was used to kill the eight victims, who were all beaten, or if different weapons were used in the killings.

In Whiteside County, where Sheley is charged with killing 93-year-old Russell Reed, Sheriff Roger Schipper said a weather vane with blood on it and an "out of place" barstool in a pool of blood were found in Reed's home, but it's unclear if they were used as weapons.

Schipper said his office is also looking into reports that Sheley may have come to Reed's home earlier this year looking for scrap metal. Sheley lived nearby.

Sheley also is a suspect but has not been charged in the slayings of four people in the county, including a 2-year-old child. Their bodies were discovered Monday in an apartment in Rock Falls.

In Jefferson County, Mo. — south of St. Louis — prosecutors said they probably would decide next week whether to charge Sheley in the killings of the Arkansas couple, whose bodies were also found Monday.

Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis told the AP on Thursday that it appears Tom and Jill Estes were attacked as soon as they climbed out of their Corvette after leaving a graduation party.

But police say Sheley didn't take their car, instead loading the bodies into a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado, traced to Randall, whose body was found about 250 miles away.

"You had droplets of blood we literally followed for a mile and a half on foot," he said.

Lewis said it was unclear what was used to kill the couple.

Associated Press writer Jim Suhr contributed to this report from Festus.


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