MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge doubled bail to $2 million Thursday for a former Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy accused of killing his wife and sister-in-law after prosecutors argued he had carefully prepared for the slayings by arranging the couple’s wills and leaving instructions on the care of their children.
Andrew Steele is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his wife, Ashlee Steele, and sister-in-law, Kacee Tollefsbol. Police found both women shot in the Steeles’ Fitchburg home just outside Madison on Aug. 22. Prosecutors haven’t revealed any motive yet.
A court commissioner set bail at $1 million last month and ordered Steele to have no contact with his children or his wife’s family. Prosecutors this week moved to increase bail to $5 million, saying Steele had clearly thought out the slayings and was a risk to society.
Several family members have said Steele insisted that Tollefsbol, who lived in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, visit them in Fitchburg alone, the motion said. He signed the couple’s wills within 36 hours of the slayings and evidence shows he communicated with his parents about how to care for the couple’s children if his wife was absent. Steele also left a note on his phone detailing his plan, the filing said.
“Because of the meticulous planning and premeditation involved, there is a risk to other family members (including his own children) and to the community should the defendant be released or his bond lowered,” Assistant District Attorney Andrea Raymond wrote.
Prosecutors filed their motion after Steele’s defense attorney, Jessa Nicholson, filed a request Tuesday to reduce his bail to between $50,000 and $100,000.
Nicholson argued Steele can’t possibly raise $1 million. He’s unemployed after he resigned from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department in June following a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Funds his family raised to combat his disease are now either in a trust for his children or in escrow waiting to be donated to a charity and he can’t access any equity on the couple’s $336,000 home, she said.
He’s not a flight risk since his disease will likely confine him to a wheelchair within the next six months, she said, and he deserves to have contact with his children because he’ll be dead within the next two to five years.
Raymond argued in the prosecutors’ motion that Steele, a native of Saginaw Township, Michigan, has between $150,000 and $175,000 in a retirement fund, continues to receive benefits from the sheriff’s department and there’s no hard proof he can’t collect on his real estate equity. A potential life sentence gives him strong motivation to flee, she said.
She noted that police discovered Steele in a laundry room in the home. He had dragged a grill into the laundry room and had closed the windows in an apparent attempt to commit suicide by smoke inhalation. That suggested he could be a suicide risk again if released, she said.
Judge Nicholas McNamara ultimately set bail at $2 million during a hearing Thursday and maintained the conditions that Steele have no contact with his wife’s family or his children.
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