Police: Sterling murder suspect’s girlfriend also missing, may be in danger

STERLING – Police are looking for the longtime girlfriend of murder suspect Michael W. Bennett, who they say may be with him and in danger.

Olivia J. Sheley, 24, was one of two women at a home at 901 W. 19th St. Saturday night when police said Bennett shot and killed Joshua N. Hamrick, 39, after an argument.

Police responding to calls of shots fired at the home found Hamrick’s body in his back yard around 9:30 p.m.

Bennett is on the run from law enforcement and no longer thought to be in the area, Deputy Chief Pat Bartel said this afternoon.

Sheley and Bennett have three young children together, but do not have custody of any of them. If the two are together, it is not known if she is with him willingly, and so she is considered missing and endangered and a national alert has been issued, he said.

Police want to locate her, confirm she is safe, and talk to her about the shooting, Bartel said.

After the shooting, Bennett fled, and a distraught but physically uninjured Sheley was taken to CGH Medical Center. She was discharged midmorning Sunday and went to the home of Bennett’s mother, Mary Bennett of Sterling, and has not been seen since, Bartel said.

Sheley and Hamrick were friends, Bennett and Hamrick knew each other. Police have not released the identity of the second woman. She also was not injured, Bartel said.

Sheley is 5-foot-6, 160 pounds with long brown hair and brown eyes. She has 11-22-11 tattooed on her collarbone and a cherry blossom tattoo on her torso.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Bennett; he is charged with first-degree murder, and his bond is set at $2 million.

He is 5-foot-8, about 225 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Although he is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached, police do not think he is a danger to the general public.

The only vehicle police know Bennett to use was recovered Sunday morning, and so they do not have a description of a vehicle he might be using now.

Bennett, who has a lengthy felony history in Whiteside County, also is on probation.

He was sentenced March 9, 2020, to two-and-a-half years probation for aggravated battery in a public place; charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a weapon were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

On June 27, 2018, he was sentenced to 6 months of conditional discharge for aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, a felony; charges of home invasion and being a felon in possession of firearm were dismissed, also in a plea agreement.

On July 24, 2014, he was sentenced to 3 years for possession of a controlled substance; another 2014 case charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm was dismissed.

Bennett was sentenced to two-and-a-half years probation in October 2006 for aggravated battery causing great bodily harm; probation was revoked the following August and he was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

He was sentenced to 2 years in 2004 for having a firearm with an invalid FOID card, and for possession of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana; attempted armed robbery and attempted aggravated robbery charges were dismissed in a plea agreement.

Anyone with any information on either Bennett or Sheley’s whereabouts can call Sterling police at 815-632-6640, or the anonymous reward hotline Crimestoppers at 815-625-7867. Tipsters who have information that leads to an arrest or conviction are eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.