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Trial begins for Illinois man accused of killing eight

By Barton Lorimor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill (Reuters) - Jury selection began this week in the first of what could be four separate trials of an Illinois man accused of beating eight people to death, including a toddler, in a two-state crime spree, officials said on Tuesday.

The trial of Nicholas T. Sheley, 32, for the murder of Ronald Randall, 65, began on Monday in Galesburg, Illinois, near Peoria. Attorneys began interviewing panels of jurors on Tuesday, a Knox County court official said.

Sheley, who also was accused of stealing Randall's truck, was also charged with murdering five other people in Illinois and two others in Missouri over several days in June 2008.

Four of the people Sheley is accused of killing -- Brock Branson, Kilynna and Dayan Blake, and Kenneth Ulve -- were found slain in an apartment in Rock Falls. Dayan Blake was two years old, according to local media reports.

Another person who was killed, Russell Reed, 93, was found murdered in the neighboring community of Sterling, Illinois, according to court documents and local media. Sheley was accused of killing him after breaking into his house and taking his wallet and checkbook.

Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case along with the Knox County state attorney, said he expected jury selection to continue through the rest of the week, which would allow testimony to begin after the Labor Day weekend.

Prosecutors in Jefferson County, Missouri, have also charged Sheley with the murders of Jill and Tom Estes of Arkansas. The couple's bodies were discovered behind a gas station in Festus, Missouri.

Defense attorney Jeremy Karlin's office declined comment.

(Writing and reporting by Barton Lorimor; Editing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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