Editorial: Justice will come too late for 8 murder victims

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Even the worst events generally teach us something.

It’s difficult to find any lesson in the killing of Robert A. Randall, 65, of Galesburg. Reportedly, Randall, a Maytag retiree, went out to wash his truck on a Saturday and never returned.

Authorities suspect he was beaten to death by Nicholas Sheley, a man on the run who needed Randall’s truck. Randall’s body was found behind the Main Street Hy-Vee at about noon the following Monday.

Randall was one of us. He lived here, he worked here, he shopped here. Any one of us could have been Robert A. Randall on that day. We mourn his loss and shudder at the senselessness of his killing.

Even worse, Randall was not the sole victim. Police believe he was one of eight people killed in a two-state murder spree.

The first to die was 93-year-old Russell Reed of Sterling. His body was found in the trunk of his car. In Rock Falls, these people were killed: Brock Branson, 29; Kenneth Ulve Jr. 25; Kilynna Blake, 20; and Dayan Blake, 2. In Festus, Mo., Tom and Jill Estes, an Arkansas couple visiting the St. Louis area to attend a graduation and family reunion, were killed. Their bloody bodies were found behind a gas station.

There are many questions left unanswered. If the accused, Nicholas Sheley, is guilty, what set him off? How could he brutally kill innocent people, including and elderly man and a toddler? And given Sheley’s criminal history — convictions for drugs, domestic battery, robbery and weapons charges — was there any indication that he was capable of such heinous acts?

According to newspaper reports, he had threatened to kill a woman with a brick and was implicated in an armed robbery. He attacked a woman with an unopened can of beer, hit a man in the head with a hammer and broke a squad car window to escape custody. He was charged for threatening a man with a knife. And he had a history of domestic violence. Somehow, for all his crimes, Sheley served only three years in prison.

If Sheley is guilty, it’s obvious that our justice system should have put him away before this killing spree. But a man can’t be convicted for what he’s capable of doing. So the question is, had he proven himself too dangerous to be on the streets? And, are there others like him, walking among us? Certainly, there are.

Marcia Frey, Sheley’s mother-in-law, had this to say: “To see my son-in-law, the father of our grandchild, in this terrible situation, to think that he killed other people, innocent people — I can’t understand how this could have happened. I want him to be punished and punished severely. ... These were innocent people.”

Indeed, if Sheley is found guilty, he will be punished. But no punishment fits this crime, not even death. If there’s any lesson here, it is that whatever justice is rendered will come too late.

Galesburg Register-Mail