In this sketch by Ward Hooper, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws is shown at the podium during the trial of Edgar J. Steele today. Steele is shown at right.
BOISE - Larry Fairfax told jurors in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial that though he accepted money from Steele, he never intended to kill anyone and told the FBI about the plot because he feared retribution.
"Mr. Steele was getting agitated, and he said if i didn't take care of the job he would find someone else to do the job, and me," Fairfax said.
Fairfax, who lived near Steele in Sagle, Idaho, testified today in U.S. District Court in Boise, where he is being housed at the Ada County Jail for the trial.
Fairfax contacted lawyer Jim Michaud, and the two arranged a meeting with federal authorities. The FBI gave Fairfax a recording device, and he secretly taped two conversations with Steele at his Talache Road home, east of Sagle near Shepherd Lake.
Jurors heard recordings of those conversations this afternoon.
Steele's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the tapes. His supporters, including his wife, believe Steele has been framed by the government.
In the first conversation, on June, 9, Steele is heard agreeing to give Fairfax a $400 "advance" to pay for his trip to Oregon City, where Cyndi Steele was visiting her mother.
Steele tells Fairfax "I'll take it out of your f**king hide; you gotta get this job done." He said a car crash could trigger an insurance policy payment.
"You've got a big payday riding on this one. I've set it up that way on purpose," Steele says
Steele acknowledges that the death investigation could trace back to him.
"We'll be sharing a cell together," Steele said.
But he said he hadn't had second thoughts.
"The only second thought I had is ever talking to you," Steele told Fairfax.
Steele told Fairfax he and a friend were to travel to Spokane the next day - the day his wife was to be killed - to go to a lumber yard and to eat lunch. The trip was part of an alibi Steele planned, according to the conversation.
"I'll make myself memorable at whatever restaurant we go to," Steele said.
He also said he planned to mail something in Spokane and get a receipt, then go to Sandpoint that afternoon.
He said he would go to the bank and post office in Sandpoint for "something that creates a record with a time stamp" and would say something memorable to the clerk.
But, the self-proclaimed "lawyer for the damned" said, "I always say memorable things. If I didn't say anything memorable, that would be unusual."
Steele told Fairfax he anticipated a visit from authorities but wasn't sure if they'd be there to arrest him or simply notify him of his wife's death.
"I hope to God I can answer the door and seem normal," Steele said.
He said if Fairfax was to get caught, he would tell the police that Fairfax was possibly in love with his wife and killed her because she wouldn't sleep with him.
"Like in Mission Impossible, I will disavow your existence," Steele said. "...There won't be anything i can do except throw you to the f**king wolves."
In testimony, Fairfax said Steele was very angry with him one day and suspected he'd been in his home without Steele's permission.
Steele told him if he went in the house again "he would shoot me" and put his children to work, Fairfax told jurors.
That touches on a key allegation by the defense - that Fairfax had stolen silver from the Steeles and set up the murder plot probe to cover up the theft.
Court is adjourned for the day. Fairfax's testimony will continue Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Boise time.