Friday, August 29, 2014
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday charged a former Wisconsin sheriff's deputy suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease with shooting his wife and sister-in-law to death earlier this month.
Former Dane County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Steele, 39, faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of his wife, Ashlee Steele, and his sister-in-law, Kacee Tollefsbol, of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. He would get two mandatory life sentences if he's convicted.
Prosecutors have not offered any motive for the slayings. Steele's attorney, Jessa Nicholson, said during a court hearing Friday that she plans to investigate Steele's mental stability. She appeared with Steele via video from the Rock County jail, where Steele is being held because of his close relationship with Dane County jailers. He sat silently in an orange jail jumpsuit and looked directly at the camera as Nicholson spoke.
"He wants to work within (the criminal justice) system to see this to its conclusion," she said.
According to a criminal complaint filed Friday, Tollefsbol, 38, called police on Aug. 22 from the Steele home in Fitchburg, a Madison suburb. She said Steele had shot her and she was dying.
Police arrived and found Tollefsbol in the basement, shot in the back and covered with blood, the complaint said. She again said her brother-in-law had shot her. She died at a hospital about an hour after making her call for help.
A Dane County sheriff's SWAT team discovered Ashlee Steele, 39, dead in the master bedroom. She had been shot in the head and had a zip-tie wrapped around her throat, cutting off circulation, the complaint said.
The SWAT team found Andrew Steele in a laundry room with a handgun. The dryer was running but was vented back into the room. A portable grill was also in the room and was very hot and loaded with charcoal. An officer secured the handgun but Andrew Steele fought with the team before they subdued him, the complaint said.
Investigators had said previously that Steele suffered injuries consistent with a suicide attempt but didn't offer details beyond saying he wasn't shot. Assistant District Attorney Paul Barnett told reporters Friday that Steele was treated for smoke inhalation at a Milwaukee medical facility.
The complaint doesn't suggest a motive, and Barnett declined to comment on the investigation.
Court Commissioner Scott McAndrew set Steele's bail at $1 million and ordered him to have no contact with his children or any members of his wife's family.
Barnett had asked for $5 million, arguing that Steele planned the slayings and would have nothing to lose if he were released and attacked other family members. Barnett also argued that Steele could use money his family raised for his medical bills on bail.
Nicholson said the money has been placed in a holding account and will be transferred to a charity. She asked for $100,000 bail and that he be allowed to call the couple's two children, arguing that he doesn't have much time left to spend with them because of his disease.
McAndrew said he wasn't comfortable with anything less than $1 million.
Steele's wife was spearheading a drive to raise $75,000 for his medical care; her Facebook page is full of videos of Steele's law enforcement colleagues taking ice bucket challenges on his behalf. They had raised about $23,000 when Ashlee Steele died.
Steele's preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 4.