Idaho

North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot

A North Idaho attorney who defended the Aryan Nations and its founder, Richard Butler, is scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday on charges he arranged to have his wife and mother-in-law killed.

Edgar J. Steele, 64, was arrested Friday at his Sagle home and charged in the murder-for-hire plot. That was the day the women were to be killed in a car crash meant to look like an accident, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

The hearing had been set for Monday afternoon in federal court in Coeur d’Alene but was postponed a day after the courthouse received a letter containing a suspicious white powder and was evacuated. Federal offices in Spokane and Bellevue also received the suspicious deliveries, and the FBI is investigating.

A confidential witness occasionally employed by Steele met with the FBI Wednesday and told agents Steele would pay him to murder the women, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The witness said Steele had discussed a list of people he wanted dead, including his wife and her mother, six months earlier, the newspaper reported. The witness agreed to the plot and accepted travel money, court documents say.

According to the affidavit, the witness was supposed to kill the women Friday because Steele had an alibi for that day. So agents concealed a device on the informant and recorded Steele planning the murders, the document said.

“The United States magistrate had found probable cause for the offense,” said Traci Whelan, an assistant U.S. attorney for Idaho. “As for the timing of the arrest, it was prudent, given he had apparently set a deadline for it.”

Steele is well known from his work for hate groups such as the Aryan Nations and other high-profile clients, including the McGuckin family, who held off police during a 2001 Idaho standoff. He’s also known for vocal anti-semitic and racist rants on the Internet.



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