GUILTY VERDICT STUNS
By Pat Shannan
Looking pale and drawn from 11 months of jail house food and no sunlight, Idaho attorney Edgar Steele, 65, was finally able to face his accusers when his federal trial began in Boise on April 27. He was charged with hiring his handyman to murder his wife and mother-in-law. On May 5, his jury of 11 women and one man found him guilty on all four counts: murder for hire, use of interstate commerce for same, possession of a destructive device and tampering with a victim.
The jury had to sort out who plotted against whom. Did Steele want his wife murdered, or did Larry Fairfax, 50, steal the family’s silver from its secret hiding place and then fabricate the murder plot as a cover-up?
Jailhouse inmate Darrell Hollingsworth testified that Fairfax told him that the FBI had “made a deal” with him to frame Steele.
A crudely constructed pipe bomb was found underneath Cyndi’s SUV when she stopped for a routine oil change in Coeur d’Alene on June 15, but the fuse was faulty and had failed to ignite from muffler heat as the culprits apparently expected. Fairfax had admitted last year that he had placed the bomb there two weeks earlier.
Lending a further shadow of suspicion over authorities was their own court testimony that no fingerprinting of the bomb was attempted before or after removal. The Steeles claimed they were “set up” because of his politically incorrect stand on various issues. Both Cyndi and daughter Kelsey, 20, testified that they have endured telephone death threats for several years.
Several FBI audio recordings of Steele played for the jury sounded potentially incriminating, but defense attorneys enlisted the aid of two audio experts who, independently, found the recordings to be contrived.
One listed over 300 suspicious discrepancies and went so far as to assert that the voice discussing the murder-for-hire payoffs with Fairfax was not that of Steele.
At the April 20 to 21 pretrial hearings, Judge Lynn Winmill dealt the defense a severe blow by ruling that the recordings could be entered into the case but not the testimony of the two experts, Dr. George Papcun of Santa Fe, N.M. and Dennis Walsh, a former NYC detective in charge of audio at the precinct level.
Their testimony had the potential to destroy the government’s case as well as provoke a fraud investigation, but it was not heard.
Unexpected testimony from Fairfax during cross-examination revealed that he was writing a book, but after examining over 250 pages of manuscript, the court determined there were no incriminating admissions or confessions. More details of the case will emerge.
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(Issue # 19 & 20, May 9 & 16, 2011)