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.
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FBI told Steele wife died in car crash
April 28, 2011 in City, Idaho on Page A5 BOISE – The day Edgar Steele was arrested for an alleged murder plot against his wife and mother-in-law, investigators first told him his wife had died in a car crash … 1
Judge says Steele witness unreliable
April 22, 2011 in Idaho on Page A6 BOISE – Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking about an alleged murder-for-hire … 2
Setback for Steele’s bid to challenge FBI tapes
April 21, 2011 in Idaho Edgar Steele’s defense won’t be able to call two expert witnesses it lined up to question the authenticity of FBI tapes of Steele talking with Larry Fairfax about an alleged … 5
Edgar Steele trial drew volunteer jurors
Visits between Steeles to continue in Boise
Steele murder-for-hire trial moved to April in Boise
Judge denies change-of-venue request for Steele trial
Murder-for-hire suspect wants trial moved to Wyoming
Prosecutors say Steele sought ‘relationship’ with woman outside U.S.
Feb. 18, 2011 in City on Page A7 A North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife was involved with another woman who received a letter from him after his arrest, federal prosecutors … 1
Judge rejects murder plot defendant’s bail request
Steele can meet with defendant husband
Man who planted pipe bomb on car pleads guilty in deal
Oct. 8, 2010 in City on Page A5 An informant in a federal murder-for-hire case who planted a pipe bomb under the intended victim’s car pleaded guilty to two federal weapons charges Thursday in Coeur d’Alene. Larry A. … 2
Informant in Steele case pleads guilty to weapons charges
Cyndi Steele alleges conspiracy
Intended victim of pipe bomb attack critical of plea bargain
Sept. 20, 2010 in Idaho, News The intended target of an alleged murder-for-hire plot criticized federal authorities today, saying the plea bargain being offered to the man who admits planting the pipe bomb under her car …
Plea in North Idaho pipe bomb case postponed
Sept. 8, 2010 in City on Page A5 A plea hearing for the hit-man-turned-informant in an alleged North Idaho murder plot was postponed Tuesday because the suspect was reluctant to acknowledge that the pipe bomb he’s accused of … 1
Plea deal postponed in Idaho murder-for-hire plot
Sept. 7, 2010 in Idaho A plea hearing for the hit-man-turned-informant in an alleged North Idaho murder plot was postponed Tuesday because the suspect was reluctant to acknowledge that the pipe bomb he’s accused of … 3
Informant to plead guilty in Steele case
Sept. 2, 2010 in City on Page A5 A Sagle man who investigators say was hired by Edgar Steele to kill Steele’s wife and mother-in-law is expected to plead guilty to federal weapons charges next week. Larry A. …
Doug Clark: A song to help you love your Klan man
Aug. 29, 2010 in City on Page B1 Brace yourselves today for “Stand by your Klan,” yet another parody song based on the real-life saga of one of our over-the-top newsmakers. Edgar J. Steele, to be precise. 4
Steele sent wife card, prosecutors claim
Aug. 25, 2010 in News on Page A6 A federal prosecutor alleges in court documents that former Aryan Nations lawyer Edgar Steele appears to have violated a no-contact order against his wife, whom he is accused of trying … 1