BOISE – A North Idaho lawyer standing trial on federal charges that he hired a man to kill his wife sent more than 14,000 online messages to women he met through an online dating website before his arrest.
Edgar Steele’s wife, Cyndi Steele, told jurors in Boise on Friday that those messages were part of his research into the Russian mail-order bride business. Cyndi Steele knew, she said, that her husband had told one woman he was not in love with his wife and that he was looking for “a girl he couldn’t live without.”
Edgar Steele told 25-year-old Tatyana Loginova he had “produced the greatest children in the world, but I deserve more. I will never have another American woman, never again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said in U.S. District Court in Boise Friday.
Loginova is expected to testify via video from Ukraine on Monday.
Steele’s lawyers, say the murder plot was really the work of Steele’s handyman, Larry Fairfax, who was arrested after authorities found a pipe bomb under Cyndi Steele’s car. Fairfax didn’t mention the bomb when he told the FBI about the plot and agreed to secretly record Steele.
Prosecutors contend Steele wanted his wife killed so he could be with Loginova.
The jury of 11 women and one man — two other women are alternates — saw emails between Steele and Loginova on Friday.
Whelan said she reviewed emails with Cyndi Steele last month to avoid surprising and embarrassing Steele at trial.
But, Cyndi Steele said Friday, “I knew what they were before I went in…I wasn’t going to be embarrassed because I know about them.”
Whelan noted that Edgar Steele could have made up any identity and told the women anything to gain information. Instead, he described his life to Loginova, sent her pictures of his home and the family’s newborn kittens and even mentioned the couple’s son, Rex.
Cyndi Steele told jurors she wasn’t concerned.
“He was setting up a ruse the same way the FBI agents did with my husband’s arrest,” she said, referring to that fact that before investigators arrested Steele on June 11, they told him his wife had been killed to gauge his reaction.
Under cross examination from defense lawyer Robert McAllister, Steele said she often helped her husband with the research and that he had traced the Russian bride scam to Florida.
Whelan said Edgar Steele viewed his wife’s dream — her horse farm — as “a symbol of wasted money.”
Said Cyndi Steele, “He knew in reality it was not a money-maker, but he knew it was my dream and supported it.”
Whelan also focused on Cyndi Steele’s theft report of $45,000 in silver, which was made in September, more than two months after her husband’s arrest. At the time, Cyndi Steele said Fairfax was a suspect.
Whelan noted that Edgar Steele called his son, Rex, in July and asked him to report the theft, telling him that it was “very important.”
Fairfax has said he rigged the bomb under Cyndi Steele’s car so it wouldn’t explode, but bomb experts said Friday that the device still had that capability.
Sgt. Mike Kittilstved, head of the Spokane County bomb squad, called the device “the largest pipe bomb that I’ve dealt with.”
Fairfax has pleaded guilty to two firearms charges related to the bomb and is to be sentenced after Steele’s trial.
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