Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strange Goings On...

And the case just gets stranger and stranger...

(Source: The Idaho Statesman, Boise)By Kathleen Kreller, The Idaho Statesman, Boise

Jun. 16--The convoluted murder-for-hire case involving a North Idaho lawyer just got a lot more complicated.

On Tuesday, a bomb was found beneath a car registered to Edgar J. Steele, who is in the Kootenai County Jail on murder-for-hire charges.

The bomb was discovered when a woman brought the vehicle -- registered to Steele -- to a Coeur d'Alene oil change shop. Employees found the bomb, moved the vehicle and called police, said Lt. Jay Heintz with Coeur d'Alene police.

"Two vehicles were towed from the scene, pending processing for possible evidence," Heintz said. The other vehicle also could have evidence of the bomb, Heintz said. No other device was found.

The device police found looked like a pipe bomb, witnesses told the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Employees described the customer as a women in her 50s. The bomb was a 1-foot piece of galvanized pipe with cap screws and two fuses attached to the exhaust system, the newspaper reported.

U.S. 95 near the shop was shut down for hours as the bomb was removed and rendered safe, Heintz said.

Later Tuesday, during his first court appearance, Steele pleaded not guilty to the murder-for-hire charges, according to the Spokesman-Review. The judge declined to release Steele and barred him from contacting his wife or mother-in-law, said Assistant U.S. Attorney for Idaho Traci Whelan.

The judge also appointed federal public defenders to represent Steele.

Steele's original hearing Monday was delayed after the U.S. Attorney's Office in Coeur d'Alene received a letter containing suspicious white powder that tests showed were non-hazardous.

Steele faces up to 10 years in prison for the charge of using interstate facilities for murder-for-hire.

Steele, 64, was charged Friday -- the same day the women allegedly were to be killed in a car crash meant to look like an accident, according to a probable-cause affidavit obtained by the Idaho Statesman.

A confidential witness occasionally employed by Steele met agents last week and said Steele would pay him to murder the women.

The witness said Steele had discussed a list of people he wanted dead, including his wife and her mother, six months earlier. The witness agreed to the plot and accepted travel money, court documents say.

According to the affidavit, agents concealed a device on the informant and recorded Steele planning the murders, according to court documents.

The witness told the FBI Steele paid $500 in cash for travel expenses and promised as much as $25,000 if the murders were completed on Friday. According to the affidavit, Steele promised the witness another $100,000 if an insurance policy paid out after his wife's murder.

Steele is well known from his work for hate groups such as the Aryan Nations. He unsuccessfully defended the hate group and its founder Richard Butler in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought against them in 2000. That loss ultimately bankrupted the Aryan Nations. Steele is also known for vocal anti-Semitic and racist rants on the Internet.


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