A handyman hired by a North Idaho lawyer to kill his wife was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in prison for an explosive device he strapped to the intended victim’s car.
Larry Fairfax, 50, didn’t tell investigators about the pipe bomb when he agreed to secretly record conversations about the plot with lawyer Edgar Steele for the FBI. Steele was arrested June 11.
Fairfax was arrested June 15 after Coeur d’Alene auto shop workers found the 12-inch bomb when Steele’s wife, Cyndi Steele, arrived for a routine oil check.
Fairfax told the FBI he’d put the device on the car in late May to make Edgar Steele think the plan was proceeding, but that he had rigged it so it couldn’t explode.
But bomb experts testified at Steele’s murder-for-hire trial in Boise this month that the device still had lethal capabilities.
Fairfax apologized Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene as family and friends looked on.
“I’m sorry I went about doing the right thing the wrong way,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax, a married father of two who grew up in Spokane before moving to North Idaho, pleaded guilty last October to possession of an unregistered firearm and to making a firearm in violation of the National Firearms Act. The plea was part of an agreement that called for him to testify against Steele and for prosecutors not to file additional charges.
A jury in Boise convicted Steele last Thursday of four federal felonies related to the murder plot. He faces at least 30 years in prison when he’s sentenced Aug. 22.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan asked for Fairfax to receive 30 months in prison. His lawyer, John Miller, asked Judge B. Lynn Winmill to sentence Fairfax for 11 months already served in jail. He said Fairfax had “horrible methods” but “correct motives” because he never intended to harm Cyndi Steele and helped arrest her husband.
Winmill said he believes Fairfax likely did not intend to kill Cyndi Steele and only wanted to obtain payment from Edgar Steele by lying to him.
He said Fairfax “probably did save Mrs. Steele’s life” and that “in a very odd way” he’s both a hero and anti-hero.
Fairfax will be credited for 11 months spent in jail since his arrest. In addition to 16 more months in prison, Fairfax will be on probation for three years and is to pay $9,690 in restitution, $1,076 for bomb recovery efforts, $860 for lost business at the auto shop where the bomb was found and $900 to Cyndi Steele for car costs and other fees.
Before Winmill’s decision, Cyndi Steele called Fairfax “the vilest form of a villain, a parasite on society” and said he deserved life in prison.
Steele said Fairfax’s true motive was to kill her and put her husband in prison to hide his theft of $45,000 in silver.
Steele reported the silver missing after her husband’s arrest. Prosecutors obtained records from coin shops that show her husband cashed in about that same amount of silver in April as he prepared for a summer visit to Europe to meet a 25-year-old woman he contacted through an online dating website.
Steele, who says her husband’s correspondence with the woman was part of his research into a Russian mail order bride scam, said she’ll be putting all her effort into her husband’s appeal, then removed her red sweater to reveal a “Free Edgar Steele” T-shirt.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.