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updated: 5/22/2014 9:20 AM

Pathologist at Sheley trial: Hammer was weapon

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  • Nicholas Sheley is escorted into the courtroom during the third day of his trial at the Rock Island County Justice Center Wednesday.

      Nicholas Sheley is escorted into the courtroom during the third day of his trial at the Rock Island County Justice Center Wednesday.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

ROCK ISLAND -- Four people, including a young boy, who were found dead in a Rock Falls apartment six years ago were beaten to death with a hammer, a forensic pathologist testified Wednesday during the trial of the man charged with killing them.

Nicholas Sheley, who is serving life sentences in the killing of two other Illinois residents, has pleaded not guilty to killing 29-year-old Brock Branson; 20-year-old Kilynna Blake; her 2-year-old son, Dayan; and 25-year-old Kenneth Ulve. He is also charged with killing an Arkansas couple in Missouri during what prosecutors say was a week-long violent crime spree.

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Forensic pathologist Mark Peters testified that the four found slain in the apartment died of blunt force trauma to the head caused by a hammer that fractured their skulls, the Daily Gazette in Sterling reported .

Peters was among nine people who testified Wednesday at the Rock Island County Justice Center, on what was the third day of the trial. Most of them spoke about the chain of custody of evidence collected from the crime scene.

In addition to the bodies in the apartment, investigators also found a pair of blood-stained khaki shorts, a blood-stained blue work shirt with the initials "A.J." embroidered on it, a pile of ash, and two cigarette butts. Prosecutors say the items link Sheley to the deaths.

Illinois State Police crime lab forensic scientist Heather May testified that DNA from blood in the hallway matched Kilynna's and Brock's. DNA from cigarette butts found at the end of their bed matched Sheley's, she said.

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