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Nicholas Sheley won’t face death penalty in Festus plea bargain

HILLSBORO, Mo. _A man convicted of multiple murders in Illinois and accused of two more in Festus is set to strike a plea deal today in the Festus case to spare his life. The victims` families aren`t happy about it.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nicholas Sheley may plead guilty to murdering a couple in Festus back in June of 2008. A plea hearing is set to take place at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Hillsboro.

The victims in the case, Tom and Jill Estes from Arkansas, were in our area for a graduation party. A worker at the Festus Comfort Inn where they were staying saw their dogs roaming the parking lot covered in blood.

The bodies of Tom and Jill Estes were later found in a convenience store trash container.

When those killings happened, Sheley was already the subject of a massive manhunt for six murders in Illinois. He was captured the day after the Festus killings at a Granite City bar.

Sheley, now 38, is already serving multiple life sentences for the Illinois cases and investigators are convinced he committed the Festus murders. But since there is no longer a death penalty in Illinois, victims` families were hoping for a death penalty conviction in the Estes murders. Now it appears that won`t happen.

Estes family members say prosecutors called and told them that Sheley would plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table and that is how they intend to proceed.

The Estes family calls that an injustice, saying they wanted their day in court in a death penalty case. Sheley did not know the Estes`making the killings even more chilling.

Court records show Sheley is set for a plea hearing today.

Jefferson county prosecutor Forrest Wegge says he won`t comment on pending cases.