June 16, 2010 in Idaho, News

Suspect in CdA pipe bomb case captured

By The Spokesman-Review
 
KHQ.com photo

This photo shows the pipe bomb removed from Cyndi Steele’s SUV on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in Coeur d’Alene.
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A man who approached federal agents last week about an alleged murder-for-hire plot hatched by a former lawyer for the Aryan Nations may have left out a key detail: He’d already rigged an explosive to the intended victim’s car.

Larry Andrew Fairfax, 49, remains in federal custody after appearing in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday on firearms charges related to a pipe bomb attached to the bottom of Edgar Steele’s wife’s SUV Tuesday. Auto shop employees found the explosive Tuesday during an oil change.

Although federal agents won’t confirm whether it was Fairfax who tipped them last week to the alleged murder plot, citing rules for protecting the identity of confidential informants, they said Wednesday they are not looking for any additional suspects in the case.

“There’s no pending public safety threat,” said Don Robinson, supervisory agent for the FBI’s Coeur d’Alene office.

Fairfax was arrested Tuesday at Coeur d’Alene police headquarters after he told investigators he made the bomb at his home on Ponderosa Road near Sagle, about six miles from Steele’s Talache Road home, which was raided by federal agents Friday.

Fairfax is accused of placing the homemade bomb on the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor Limited on May 30, one day before Cyndi Steele was to drive to Oregon. He told police that although he planted the first bomb, he manipulated the fuse to malfunction, according to court documents.

Fairfax also told agents he was to place a second bomb on Edgar Steele’s car, which he said Steele planned to ignite after his wife’s death “to provide an alibi or evidence that both he and his wife had been targeted for murder,” wrote Agent Todd Smith of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in an affidavit.

Fairfax had emptied the second device of gun powder and gave it to investigators Tuesday during an interview at the Coeur d’Alene Police Department.

Investigators say the pipe bomb may have been a separate murder attempt from the plan Fairfax previously spoke of that was set for last Friday.

“We’ve got to look at the time and when (the device) was placed,” Robinson said. “Was this a prior attempt that failed to work? These are all questions we hope to answer in the next couple days.”

The case began last week when the FBI learned from an informant of an alleged murder plot by Steele, known for his unsuccessful defense of the Aryan Nations in the landmark 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the racist group.

The informant told investigators he scouted Steele’s mother-in-law’s house in Oregon City, Ore., and accepted $400 to cover travel costs, which he gave to investigators as evidence. The informant was to be paid $25,000 for the murders and $100,000 if Steele collected on an insurance policy, according to a probable cause affidavit supporting Steele’s arrest.

The FBI monitored two meetings between the informant and Steele and say they have Steele on tape discussing the plot. Steele was arrested at his home Friday; he pleaded not guilty to a murder-for-hire charge on Tuesday, just hours after the bomb was discovered on his wife’s SUV. Cyndi Steele and her son attended the hearing; a judge ordered Edgar Steele not to contact his wife or his mother-in-law.

Fairfax told investigators he stuck the bomb on Cyndi Steele’s SUV at the Steele home on or about May 30. It was still there when she pulled into a Coeur d’Alene auto shop Tuesday about 12:30 p.m. to get an oil change. A Spokane County bomb squad used a robot to detonate the device. The device “could have resulted in death or serious bodily injury to any person nearby” had it exploded, according to an affidavit supporting Fairfax’s arrest.

Fairfax was in police custody by 7 p.m., court records show.

Fairfax’s family and public defender John Miller declined comment after Wednesday’s hearing. Court documents say Sagle lawyer Jim Michaud attended Fairfax’s interviews with police Tuesday night, but Michaud did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Fairfax’s bail hearing is set for Monday afternoon. He’s in custody at the Kootenai County Jail.


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