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Posts tagged: opening statements

Defense: Fairfax stole silver, set up Steele

BOISE - The murder-for-hire case against Edgar Steele is really the work of financially strapped man desperate to cover up his theft of silver from Steele's home, defense lawyer Robert McAllister said this morning.

“This case is as much about a man named Larry Fairfax as it is about Edgar Steele,” McAllister said in his opening statement. 
 
“You will see no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Steele ever made an explosive device, ever touched an explosive device, ever approved of an explosive device or ever told Larry Fairfax to make an explosive device,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister described Steele as a lawyer, father and “established author or writer” who was living “the good life of retirement” in Sagle after “a career of representing clients, some of whom were very unpopular.”
 
“First question,” McAllister said, “why would Edgar Steele want to kill his wife and mother-in-law, and, if he did, why would he ask somebody like Larry Fairfax to do it?” 
 
Steele nearly died and underwent surgery in late 2009. Cyndi Steele took care of him when he returned home. She split her time between Sagle and Oregon City, where her mother was battling cancer, McAllister said.
 
The Steeles talked on the phone nearly every day.
 
“They would literally spend 45 minutes at a time talking about each other and talking about the problems that faced their lives,” McAllister said.
 
At that same time, unbeknownst to the Steeles, Fairfax was cashing in silver he'd stolen from them, McAllister said.
Fairfax was a handy man who had worked for the Steeles for about 10 years. He'd gained their trust and knew where their silver  - their life savings - was stored.
 
The Steeles “didn't really trust banks or the economy or the way things were going, so they put their life savings in silver and they kept it in their house, and they trusted Larry Fairfax to know where the silver was located,” McAllister said. He said evidence will show “that (Fairfax is) a man desperate for money, and he's a man who has admitted to being a liar. He's a man who has filed for bankruptcy, and he's a man who would do anything for money.”
 
Fairfax claims the pipe bomb he affixed to Cyndi Steele's car was rigged so it couldn't explode.  But he never mentioned the device when he first approached the FBI about the alleged murder plot.
 
“He never tells them that Cyndi Steele is driving hundreds of miles back and forth from Oregon City with this device on her car,” McAllister said.
 
Experts are expected to testify that, despite Fairfax's claims, the device was capable of exploding.
 
Fairfax, McAllister said, “didn't tell the whole truth, he didn't tell nothing but the truth. The evidence will show, and he admits it, he lied to the law enforcement agencies.”
 
McAllister said Edgar Steele had no reason to want his wife dead.
 
He said the women Steele was talking to online were part of his research for a book on human trafficking. Jurors will read letters and emails sent by Steele that “are not the type of letter written by a murderer, or someone who wanted to attempt a murder,” McAllister said.
 
McAllister said Fairfax told FBI agents “I can set up Edgar Steele; I can show you how he told me to do this” when he first approached them June 8.
 
Fairfax secretly recorded a conversation with Steele the next day. Steele was arrested June 11 and has been in federal custody since.
 
Fairfax also is in custody on federal firearms charges related to the pipe bomb on Cyndi Steele's car. He's to be sentenced after Steele's trial.
 
“This is a case built on evidence, and I think you will see before the case is concluded, that all the evidence points back to Larry Fairfax,” McAllister said. “Larry Fairfax is at the center of this case. You will see from the evidence - it's undisputed - that this is all his doing.”
 
FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka was the first witness to testify.
 
Court is on an hour break right now; testimony will continue at 11:35 a.m., Boise time.

Prosecutors: Case against Steele ‘simple’

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.

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