BOISE – The alleged victim in a murder-for-hire plot supposedly hatched by her husband told jurors Thursday she knew he was talking to other women online but that it was part of his research into Russian mail-order bride schemes.
“I gave him the go-ahead because I trusted him,” Cyndi Steele testified Thursday, the second day of testimony in Edgar Steele’s trial in U.S. District Court in Boise. “He would let me read anything I wanted; I knew what he was sending.”
Steele said she knew her husband told the women he was divorced and wanted to have babies with them but said they often read the correspondence together in his home office.
“We would end up laughing together, because we didn’t believe it was always the pretty girl behind the writings,” Steele said. “It could be a man as far as we knew.”
Federal prosecutors say Edgar Steele hired his handyman, Larry Fairfax, to kill his wife and mother-in-law out of a desire to be with another woman and anger that his wife may have a boyfiend. They detailed the Steeles’ past marital problems, including Cyndi Steele’s short-lived divorce petition in 2000, which she filed after discovering her husband was meeting women online and telling them he was divorced.
Steele, a North Idaho lawyer who represented the now-defunct Aryan Nations, contends the murder-for-hire case against him is part of a government conspiracy.
His lawyers argue the murder plot was really the work of Fairfax, who they say set up Steele to cover his theft of silver from Steele’s Talache Road home, just east of Sagle.
Fairfax denied that in testimony Thursday, saying the only lies he told Steele were, “That I would kill his wife … (and) that I would kill his mother-in-law.” Fairfax had earlier said that Steele had about 12 other people he wanted killed, too.
Under cross-examination, Fairfax acknowledged that he’s writing a novel about his experience. Defense lawyer Robert McAllister said Bonner County Jail inmate Daryl Hollingsworth was asked by Fairfax “if he could design the cover for your book.”
Fairfax said Hollingsworth, who is in jail for aggravated battery in Sandpoint, has a reputation as a liar. He is expected to testify next week.
Fairfax was arrested four days after Steele, when a pipe bomb was found affixed to Cyndi Steele’s SUV. He hadn’t told investigators he had already planted it there when he told them about the murder plot. He pleaded guilty to two firearms charges and is to be sentenced after Steele’s trial.
Fairfax said he received $10,000 in silver from Steele as a down payment for the murders, which he never planned to commit. He said he told the FBI of the plan because he feared Steele.
Cyndi Steele reported to police the theft of $45,000 in silver from their home after Fairfax and her husband were arrested. Fairfax was listed as the suspect, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said Thursday that Edgar Steele had cashed in about that same amount of silver six weeks before his arrest. Cyndi Steele said she knew of that and factored it when reporting the theft.
She also said she knew her husband wrote to one of the Russian women, Tatayna Loginova, from the jail confessing his love. Whelan questioned why he would continue to lie for research purposes while jailed on such serious federal charges.
Loginova is expected to testify via video.
Jurors also listened to phone calls Steele made to his wife and son from the Kootenai County Jail in which he urged Cyndi Steele to tell authorities the voice on the recordings about the murder plot “was not my husband’s voice.”
He also said he feared she was seeing someone else.
“I’m only suffering because I love you and I’m not getting enough of you,” he said.
Cyndi Steele testified Thursday that she doesn’t believe her husband was trying to unduly influence her.
“He was trying to tell me he was innocent and that’s what he was standing up for,” Steele said. “He never asked me to lie, and he knows I would be upset if he wrongly went to prison.”
Her testimony will continue this morning.