Trooper recounts delivery of death notification - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Trooper recounts delivery of death notification

Authorities used move to gauge reaction of Steele

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Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 12:00 am

BOISE - Idaho State Trooper Jess Spike said death notifications are one of the more "sacred things we do."

And in the two dozen he's been part of delivering, those on the receiving end usually have one of two reactions: They either lash out in anger and disbelief or they collapse.

On June 11 of last year, he delivered a death notification at 1569 Talache Road, in Sagle, the home of Edgar J. Steele and his wife Cyndi Steele.

Spike said Edgar Steele was told his wife had been killed in a car accident, though it wasn't true. Authorities were testing Steele, to see his reaction to the news, Spike said.

Steele's reaction didn't include either lashing out or collapsing, the trooper testified Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise in Steele's murder-for-hire trial.

"It was flat," Spike said. "It appeared he was trying to develop tears, (but) none developed."

Spike said officers were acting under the direction of FBI special Agent Mike Sotka, who had been investigating the case. Sotka wanted to see if Steele carried out plans, for after the death of his wife, he had allegedly discussed with handyman-turned-hitman Larry Fairfax.

Steele asked if anyone was with her in the vehicle, Spike said. Federal prosecutors have said Steele allegedly wanted both his wife and mother-in-law killed.

She was alone, he was told. It happened near Oregon City, Ore., where Cyndi Steele's mother lives.

"We told him that it appeared her car had been run off the road, and there had been an eyewitness," Spike said.

Sotka, who also was at the death notification, told Steele that a man named Larry Fairfax had been contacted. Fairfax was believed to have run her off the road, but had then gotten into an accident himself.

"He seemed somewhat surprised at this point," Spike said. "It was a more genuine reaction."

Steele said he knew Larry Fairfax, who had done work at their home.

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from A6

But Steele said his wife had the majority of the contact with Fairfax, Spike said.

Sotka and the others then dropped another bomb. His mother-in-law had been shot dead.

Steele's response to that was, "(Expletive) me!," Spike recalled.

Steele expressed some serious disbelief at that revelation, Spike said.

Then Steele, who has had serious heart problems and surgeries, got more bad news. Sotka received a call from Oregon, where it was reported Fairfax was regaining consciousness following his accident.

Fairfax reportedly told officers on scene that Steele could explain everything, Spike said.

Steele had no response to that, Spike said.

Sotka then revealed the truth, Steele's wife was fine, and investigators were on to the alleged plot.

Steele was arrested and Spike took him to Kootenai County jail.

In his cross examination of the trooper, Steele's defense attorney, Robert T. McAllister pointed out, "This whole ruse was to see him crack" and admit to the alleged plot. Steele didn't do that, McAllister said. Spike agreed.

Steele is facing decades in prison if he's found guilty of the charges related to the alleged plot. A jury of 11 women and one man will begin hearing evidence for a third day today.

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  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:57 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2011.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Mister d,

    I used to think he was guilty, but the more trickery and theatrics I see make me have doubt, that the White Supremacists are so heavy on his side make me want him to be guilty, but that doesn't make it true. And the more that comes out like this put more doubt as to the strength of their case. I find it particularly suspicious that the recording are not being proven authentic by the prosecution, with chain of custody reports or any recording experts to validate or refute, and defense has been denied the ability to offer any testimony on those lines.

    Even if convicted, this will go to appeals and probably get a new trail. It's sad that so much doubt is in place after a year of thinking he was probably guilty, and all that doubt is coming from the prosecution.

  • yellow press posted at 10:00 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2011.

    yellow press Posts: 89

    Wow ... this story does not incriminate Steele as much as it incriminates the FBI for being unethical liars.
    What a cruel thing to do. Pardon me for my ignorance, but if you lie to authorities, you can be charged for giving a false statement, but authorities can lie to citizens at will and without recourse?

  • mister d posted at 8:57 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2011.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    The fact that Steele didn't react in the expected manner is just one more nail in the guilty man's coffin. It's only psychobabble to those who don't understand the science of psychology.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 8:37 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2011.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    This Psychobabble is unrealistic. I was notified of my fathers sudden death and it was over an hour later that conditions where safe for me to react. I must have Killed him because I didn't react the same as prescribed by this Psychobabble. I had to drive 75 miles on a motorcycle to be at my mothers death bed, and didn't allow myself to breakdown till after her death. I would never breakdown or lash out infront of strangers on something as personal as a close death, only people very close to me would be able to see the change. This is just a play on the sensitivity of the predominately female jury.

    Shame on them for these cheep theatrics. It's things like this that muddy the waters, and make people question the justice system. These are tricks that defense lawyers used to use when they had nothing else to try, Is the States case so weak they need tricks? It seemed a pretty straight forward case from what has been in the news, but maybe the press has been tricked into printing theatrics , too.

  • RadRevD posted at 6:36 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2011.

    RadRevD Posts: 3333

    one of the more "sacred things we do."???

    This seems like a sick game. Weren't the wiretaps producing?

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