Edgar Steele died in a California prison on Sept. 4, the California prison system confirmed. Cause of death has not been released.
Edgar Steele was sentenced on Nov. 9, 2011, to 50 years in federal prison for a failed murder-for-hire plot that targeted his wife and mother-in-law with a car bomb.
Steele was convicted May 5 of plotting to kill his wife and mother-in-law. His wife, Cyndi Steele, vowed to appeal the verdict. She believed her husband was targeted because of his defense of unpopular clients, including the Aryan Nations.
The North Idaho lawyer was arrested June 11, 2010, and charged in the plot. That was the day the women were allegedly to be killed in a car crash meant to look like an accident.
Four days later, mechanics found a pipe bomb attached to an SUV driven by Steele’s wife Cyndi Steele, just hours before he pleaded not guilty to the murder-for-hire charge in federal court.
On June 9, Larry Fairfax had told FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka he’d been hired by Steele, whom he said he’d known for 20 years, to kill Steele’s wife and mother-in-law. He said he’d already been paid $10,000 in silver coins, received $400 for travel expenses to Oregon, where Steele’s mother-in-law lives, and was to receive $25,000 for the murders, then $100,000 if an auto insurance claim paid off.
Fairfax was arrested June 15 after he told investigators he made the bomb at his home. Fairfax is accused of placing the 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.
Steele, 65, wanted his wife murdered because he “had been establishing a relationship with a young woman who lives outside of the United States,” according to documents filed in February 2011 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.
Edgar Steele’s background includes a history of association with North Idaho white supremacists. Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler hired the Sandpoint attorney in 2000 to defend the group from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a woman and her son who were shot at outside Butler’s Hayden Lake compound. Although Steele lost the court battle and the $6.3 million jury award bankrupted the group and shut down the compound, he quickly rose to prominence in the extremist movement.
Cyndi Steele, who operates a horse farm on the couple’s property, filed for divorce in June 2000, alleging her husband “misrepresented his marital status and eligibility” in online dating profiles “with the sole intention of meeting women” in San Mateo, Calif., where he maintained a law office. But the case was dismissed two months later and the couple remained married.
When Steele took over the Aryan Nations’ defense, he said it wasn’t because he shared Butler’s beliefs, but because he believed the case was about free speech. He sued The Spokesman-Review over an article he said implied otherwise. The Idaho Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in 2003.