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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Old friend of Steele’s describes shock

A longtime friend of Edgar Steele told jurors that he was "shocked" when he learned of Steele's arrest and never saw Steele threaten or harm anyone in the more than 40 years he's known him.

Jeff Miller, a partner with George's Cyclotron Inc., who also works with Hendry Ranch Wines in Napa Valley, Calif., said he met Steele through a mutual friend in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the San Francisco area.

Their families socialized, and Steele's children still refer to Miller as "Uncle Jeff," he told jurors. Miller said he met Cyndi Steele a year or two before she married Edgar, and that he's never known Steele to threaten or harm his wife or children.

"Ed is a very strict parent, as am I. So sometimes you come down on the kids. But that's our job," Miller said.

He said he learned of Steele's arrest when Steele's son, Rex, called him.

"It was quite a shock," Miller said. Miller said he didn't know of the Steeles' divorce petition in 2000 until Sunday night.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Miller acknowledged that he didn't know of the Steeles' marriage problems and that Edgar Steele never confided to him that he was looking for women on

Miller said Steele once tried to enlist his help with research into the Russian bride scam. He said Steele called and asked him to go to a website and find a particular person, and that it would cost him "a couple hundred dollars."

But Miller's wife told him it wasn't a good idea. "I called him back that same day and told him my wife wouldn't let me do it," Miller said.

Also testifying this morning was a Sagle, Idaho, man who traveled with Fairfax to check on a pipe bomb attached to Cyndi Steele's SUV.

James Maher, Fairfax's cousin, told jurors today that he spent about 10 seconds trying to see if the device was still there.

Maher said he couldn't get under the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor because neighbors near the Oregon City, Ore., home of Steele's mother-in-law were watching.

Maher said he wanted to see if the pipe bomb was gone "because I thought Cyndi Steele was a really nice lady."

Maher admitted that Fairfax once said something about appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. "That was like an over-the-top thing," Maher said. "But yeah, I thought it might work out for him; I don't know."

But, Maher added, "there was no braggery involved."

He said Fairfax said he couldn't check himself because Cyndi Steele might see him. "Then the jig would be up," Maher said.

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.