Manchester Police Chief Scott Will is no stranger to addressing the public. During his 34-year career in law enforcement, he has been involved in plenty of press conferences. However, his recent experience, appearing on a nationally-televised crime episode, stretched his comfort level.
Will appeared in “The Blood Trail” episode of the Investigation Discovery show, “See No Evil.” The show, which began airing in 2014, focuses on crimes that are solved with the help of surveillance cameras. Police reveal how closed circuit television [CCTV] footage has unlocked the answer to cases that otherwise might have remained unsolved. It features real footage and dramatic reenactments, combined with first-hand testimony from police, witnesses and families.
At the time of the filming on Oct. 31, 2018, Will was a Maryland Heights Police captain and a deputy commander assigned to the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, a group of elite investigators from 119 jurisdictions in the bi-state region.
Will joined the detective bureau in 1989 and the MCS in 1991, beginning his tenure as deputy commander in 2007. He became Manchester’s police chief effective Feb. 4. As such, he can no longer serve on the MCS, but he said he believes in the work it does and hopes to serve on its board of directors one day.
“The Major Case Squad is typically activated on cases when there is no clear indication on who is responsible,” Will explained on air. “These are cases that are characterized as true whodunits.”
That was the situation surrounding the disappearance and double homicide of Arkansas residents Tom and Jill Estes, who were in Festus, Missouri, on June 29 celebrating Jill’s niece’s graduation. Will served as the investigative lead on this case.
“When approached to do the episode, I only agreed if the Estes family said it was OK,” Will shared.
The filming took place in a rented house in University City.
“I was nervous as all get out,” Will said. “Media outlets are a vital part of our job. They help us communicate to the public, who is often a critical part of providing clues to solve cases. But this was definitely different. I had never been directed before.”
Will said he was able to explain the case step-by-step in his own words. However, the director asked him to emphasize certain words and speak in the present tense, making it a little less fluid and more stressful, Will said. Although surprised by the sheer length of time he was on camera, Will said he was pleased with the final result.
“I really sought to highlight the cooperative nature between St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Festus. They edited it nicely to give a timeline of how the events went along,” Will said. “The investigation was accurately portrayed without being sensationalized.”
If Will had a complaint, it would be based on the reenactments. He said those parts of the episode depicted the investigation team as smaller than it really was.
“I had delegated dozens of team members to investigate leads across the bi-state area,” Will explained. “The highly cooperative nature between the jurisdictions was phenomenal. It was agreed upon to move the investigation away from Festus to the St. Louis City Homicide Bureau because the investigation lead us to the city.”
Due to the cooperative nature and great CCTV footage providing a timeline of events, the suspect, Nicholas Sheley, was arrested on July 1 in Granite City, Illinois. During the investigation, it was determined that Sheley had murdered eight individuals in Illinois in the week prior to his arrest. He received life without parole after pleading guilty to avoid the death penalty. Will was called to testify against him in four Illinois trials. The final trial ended in 2018.
“I was glad to do the show because I wanted to highlight the work the Major Case Squad does, and it highlights the good work that our police men and women do on a daily basis.”
The episode originally aired on April 24, but is available at investigationdiscovery.com and on demand for some cable and satellite customers.