BOISE - Prosecutors say the case against Edgar Steele is simple.
“It's the story of a man who wanted to murder his wife, hired somebody else to do it, and fortunately, they didn't succeed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws said in his opening statement this morning.
Steele's wife, Cyndi Steele, often traveled to Oregon City, Ore., to visit her mother. Steele was recovering from a major surgery in December 2009 and often home alone.
“The evidence is going to show that he was angry; the evidence is going to show that he resented Cyndi,” Haws said. “He suspected she had a boyfriend.”
Today is Edgar and Cyndi Steele's 26th wedding anniversary, says Steele's lawyer, Robert McAllister.
The Sagle, Idaho, lawyer accused of hiring a man to kill his wife was also developing “some interest in some young Russian women” and often chatted with them online, Haws said.
One woman, Tatyana Loginova, will testify via video, Haws said. Steele wanted his wife murdered so he could spend more time with Loginova, prosecutors say.
“This case involves the intersection of two lives: the life of Larry Fairfax and the life of Edgar Steele,” Haws said. “…Edgar Steele, who had money, but he couldn't bring himself to kill wife, and really didn't know how to do things with hands. And you had Larry Fairfax, who knew who to do things with his hands, but he didn't have any money.”
In a recorded conversation that will be played for jurors, Haws says Steele tells Fairfax that if investigators trace the murder back to Steele, “we'll be sharing a cell together.”
Fairfax asks if Steele has second thoughts.
“Mr. Steele says, 'have you seen a second thought in me yet?'” Haws said. Steele also tells Fairfax of a television show he saw in which a woman was paralyzed in a car crash and her husband took care of her for the rest of her life. Steele is adamant that that can't happen, Haws said.
“If I abandoned her at that point, my kids would hate me forever. This could actually become a much worse situation than it is…Do not leave me like that,” Haws described Steele as saying.
Haws said Steele continues, “I'm pissed off at Cyndi, but I don't want her to suffer, and I don't want her to realize, as the lights are going out, what's happened…I spent 25 years married to her, and it wasn't all fun and games. But either way, I don't want to see her go out suffering. I want this over with. There aint no second thoughts.”
Steele had already paid Fairfax $10,000 in silver and promised much more money if he went through with the murders, Haws said.
Fairfax is expected to testify. Haws said investigators presented Steele with his wife's fake death certificate when they arrived at his home to arrest him June 11.
Haws' opening statement just ended. Opening statements from Steele's defense team are next, after a 10-minute break.
Steele's supporters, including his wife, believe he has been framed by the federal government.
Cyndi Steele said the Russian women prosecutors refer to were involved in her husband's legal work against human trafficking.