Thursday, July 03, 2008

TOP STORY > >Memorial set for murdered

Leader staff writer

A murdered couple who called Sherwood their home for more than 20 years will be buried in their hometown of St. Louis.

A memorial is planned for Tom and Jill Estes from 1 to 4 p.m., July 18 at Sherwood Forest on Maryland Ave.

The pair was found dead behind a trash bin at a gas station in Festus, Mo., on Monday. They were staying at a neighboring Comfort Inn.

According to police reports, the pair had attended a graduation Sunday in nearby Florissant and returned to the hotel about 10:30 p.m. that night, but apparently never made it to their room. Another guest found the pair’s dogs wandering the parking lot. Police and animal control were called. The dogs, although unharmed, were covered in blood. The animals, a schnauzer named Webster and a miniature pinscher named Reggie had tags listing the Esteses as their owners.

Police checked the Esteses’ hotel room and found the room in order. The Esteses’ car was still in the parking lot, but police did find two pairs of glasses and a lot of blood nearby in the parking lot.

The couple was officially listed as missing at this point, and the bodies were discovered Monday.

The suspect in the killing, Nicholas Sheley, 28, of Sterling, Ill., who was also wanted in killing of six others over five days in a trail from Galesburg, Ill. to Festus, was captured Tuesday night after an intense multi-state, multi-agency manhunt outside a bar in Granite City, about 10 miles north of St. Louis.

Sheley, so far, has been officially charged in two of the eight murders and is being held on a $1 million bond. He has supposedly told police nothing about what caused his murderous rampage.

Jill Estes, 52, worked as para-educator at Tolleson Elementary in Jacksonville, helping special education students. She had been with the Pulaski County Special School District since 2001, working first at Oakbrooke Elementary in Sherwood and then at Tolleson.

Her husband Tom, 54, was a 30-year veteran with the Union Pacific railroad company.

Diane Ashenberger, principal at Tolleson, said the school staff gathered earlier in the week at a teacher’s home to share and pray. “It’s what we needed,” she said.

“We are a very close-knit family at Tolleson,” she said, “and there will be a large void in our school family.”

Sheley is also accused of killing a 65-year-old Galesburg man, a 93-year-old Sterling man whose body was found in the trunk of a car, and four people—two men, a woman and a child—in an apartment in Rock Falls, Ill.

According to the FBI, the 93-year-old man, the toddler and the Esteses appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma to their head, possibly with an ax.