Steele Sentenced to 50 Years in Murder-for-hire Scheme
COEUR D’ALENE – Edgar J. Steele, 65, of Sagle, Idaho, was sentenced in United States District Court today to 50 years in prison for using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, use of explosive material to commit a federal felony, possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, and tampering with a victim, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Steele to serve three years of supervised release and pay a total of $2,836.91 in restitution to the State of Idaho Military Division, Quik Lube, and Cyndi Steele.
Yesterday in a written order the district court rejected Steele's contentions that prosecutors or FBI agents engaged in misconduct by reviewing attorney-client communications or failing to disclose exculpatory evidence. The district court also rejected Steele's contention that an FBI agent manipulated the recordings in which Steele made statements suggesting his own guilt. “Steele was given ample opportunity during the [pretrial] hearing and trial to test the authenticity of the recordings,” wrote the court. “And Steele does not present any additional evidence to persuade the Court that another hearing on this issue is warranted.”
Following a seven-day trial, Steele was convicted on all counts on May 5, 2011. At trial, the jury heard audio tapes of Steele making statements to Larry Fairfax, the person he tried to hire, confirming his participation in the murder-for-hire plot. Fairfax testified at trial that he had worked as a handyman for Steele and his wife. He testified that Steele paid him approximately $10,000 in silver coins as a down payment to kill Steele's wife and mother-in-law. Fairfax also testified that he had installed the pipe bomb on Mrs. Steele's car in May 2010 at Edgar Steele's direction. Fairfax pled guilty and was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison for possession of an unregistered firearm and manufacturing a firearm.
In a statement released today, U.S. Attorney Olson said, “[T]he long prison sentence imposed by the Court . . . sends a necessary and strong message that trying to hire a person to commit murder, that use of a destructive device to achieve that end, is depraved and violent conduct that will be dealt with swiftly and severely by the criminal justice system. Through his conduct, including his attempts to influence a witness, Mr. Steele earned every month in prison to which the district court sentenced him.”
“Mr. Steele represents a clear danger to society and today's sentence ensures he will no longer pose a threat to our community and its residents,” said Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Don Robinson, supervisor of the Coeur d'Alene office of the FBI and the North Idaho Violent Crime Task Force.
The Steele case was investigated by members of the North Idaho Violent Crime Task Force (NIVCTF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The NIVCTF’s members include the FBI, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Shoshone County Sheriff's Office, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, Coeur d'Alene Police Department, Post Falls Police Department, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police Department, and is tasked with investigating a myriad of violent crimes to include armed robbery, kidnaping, felonious assault and drug trafficking.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.