Complaint: Officers heard ‘I am dying, I am dying’
Court sets $1M bail for man charged in deaths
MADISON, Wis. — Police found a home filled with smoke when they arrived at the scene of a double homicide in Fitchburg, according to a criminal complaint released Friday.
Former Dane County Deputy Andy Steele, 39, appeared in Dane County Circuit Court Friday afternoon by video conference from Rock County where he’s being held. Steele was formally charged Friday in the deaths of 39-year-old Ashley Steele and her 38-year-old sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. He’s charged with two counts of homicide, one of them with a domestic-abuse enhancer.
“The charges here are the most serious crimes known to the law,” said Dane County Assistant District Attorney Paul Barnett. “They involve the violent deaths of two individuals, and the course of events leading to their deaths were, we submit, planned.”
Steele would face mandatory life in prison if he’s convicted.
Bail was set at $1 million. Court Commissioner Scott McAndrew said it’s unlikely Steele would post bail, but if he does, there should be further review by the circuit court. He also ordered Steele to have no contact with the family of his wife, with his children, or with any members of the Dane County tactical team.
Steele’s attorney argued that the allegation of the deaths being planned was inaccurate.
“I can represent that collaterals as well as my client report that there is no apparent motive and no history of domestic violence,” said attorney Jessa Nicholsen. “The parties were, up until these events, happily married and working as a team.
Court documents detail more about what happened at the home at 3038 Yarmouth Greenway Drive.
The first officer on scene said he found Tollefsbol in the home the afternoon of Aug. 22 calling, “I am dying. I am dying,” according to the criminal complaint [PDF] . Tollefsbol was found just inside a basement door.
The complaint states that when she was asked who shot her, she said, “My brother-in-law.” She was later pronounced dead at a UW hospital. Tollefsbol also identified Andy Steele as the person who shot her during a call to 911, according to the complaint.
Officers also heard the sound of a smoke detector or a carbon monoxide detector coming from the home when they first arrived.
Officers said they found Ashlee Steele with a zip tie around her neck, wearing a sleep mask, in bed, with a gunshot wound to her head, and a pillow with a hole in it.
The complaint states that officers in the Steele home found Andy lying in the laundry room, with a dryer vented into the room, a gun on the floor and a charcoal grill burning.
Officers said Steele was “alert and resistive” toward officers who entered.
Ashlee Steele’s sister-in-law told police that she missed a call from Ashlee about an ice bucket challenge event at 9:45 a.m. the day of the homicide. She said she called Ashlee back at 10:14 a.m. and 10:25 a.m., but got no answer. She told officers it was uncharacteristic for Ashlee not to answer her phone.
Andy Steele had resigned from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office after a diagnosis of ALS. He was involved in ice bucket challenge events before his arrest. Steele’s attorney says she doesn’t think recent publicity about his ALS diagnosis was a factor.
“The defense is working diligently to investigate, number one, if these allegations are accurate, and number two, if there is a medical or psychological cause for them,” said Nicholsen.
The complaint does not detail any interviews with Andy Steele or any information about a possible motive, but a source close to the investigation tells News 3 he did do an interview with investigators.
“The criminal complaint contains what evidence is necessary to support the charges as we have issued here,” said Barnett. “That’s as much as I’m prepared to say at this point.”
The court commissioner said he set high bail because of the nature of the case and also because prosecutors claimed Steele had access to family money as well as cash raised through ALS benefits. Nicholsen said that money was to be donated to another ALS charity and he had no intention of using it for his legal defense.
A funeral service for the sisters was held Friday afternoon in Stillwater, Minnesota, at the Church of St. Michael.
A preliminary hearing for Steele is scheduled for Thursday.