Knox County public defender James Harrell was appointed as counsel for Nicholas T. Sheley during an appearance in Knox County Court today. His first appearance with counsel is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Knox County Courthouse.

The man accused of killing eight people in Illinois and Missouri was appointed a public defender in a Knox County courtroom on Wednesday.

Nicholas T. Sheley, 28, Sterling, is accused in the death of Galesburg resident Ronald Randall, 65, and seven others during a roughly one-week period. He previously appeared before Judge William Davis on July 3.

Knox County public defender Jim Harrell was appointed as Sheley’s attorney, should he choose to accept his services.

In Knox County alone, Sheley faces five felony counts — first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, theft and theft by possession. In his previous appearance, Sheley refused the services of a public defender, saying he wished to retain his own counsel.

“At this time, I would like to further admonish you with respect to Count 1 (first-degree murder),” Judge Steven Bordner told a quiet Sheley. “You have the right, on each of these five counts, to represent yourself, hire a private attorney or seek a public defender. I want you to have the benefit of an attorney prior to your hearing.”

“I am in the process now” of finding a private attorney, Sheley said.

Bordner attempted to determine Sheley’s financial resources in securing a private attorney, questioning him whether he holds real estate, whether he is employed and how much money he has in bank accounts.

“Nothing with any amount of money to speak of,” Sheley told the judge, his voice carrying through the crowded courtroom. He assured Bordner, though, that if he wanted to secure his own counsel, “it’s possible” for him to come up with the financial resources.

Sheley will appear with Harrell for the first time at 11 a.m. Friday.

Michelle Anstett can be reached at