Former deputy accused of killing wife, sister has died

A Fitchburg man and a former Dane County deputy who was found not responsible for the death of his wife and sister-in-law has died, according to his attorney.

Andy Steele killed his wife, Ashlee Steele, and sister-in-law Kacee Tollefsbol in the Steele’s Fitchburg Home on Aug. 22, 2014.

A Dane County jury in April 2015 found Steele not guilty by reason of mental defect for killing his wife and Tollefsbol. Steele suffered from ALS, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his attorneys made the case that the ALS caused him to commit the murders.

His attorney, Jessa Nicholson, confirmed that Steele died Tuesday morning of complications from ALS at an area hospital after a week-long stay. He was 42.

Steele was initially sent to Mendota Mental Health Institution following his sentencing in 2015. He then told the court, “Ashlee and Kacee are two of the greatest people to ever walk this earth.” He said, “Kacee was among the best friends that I’ve ever had and they’re both gone because I caused their death.”

“I do not know what happened that day,” he said. Speaking to the victims’ children, he said, “All I can do is pray for their resilience and pray that their pain eases as time goes on.”

Months later, Steele’s attorneys petitioned for his release from Mendota, saying he was no longer considered a threat to himself and others. Judge Nicholas McNamara agreed, but said in a ruling allowing his release that he still believed Steele had “the mind of a killer.”

State health officials worked for months to find a long-term care facility to take Steele, but were unable to find one willing to accept him. McNamara ruled in January that Steele would live in a home in Dane County with his parents while getting 24-hour medical care.

“Because the disease that will eventually kill Andrew Steele has now left him unable to move, unable to speak, unable to care for himself in any way whatsoever, our law requires he must be released from the mental health institution under the conditions and rules approved by the court today,” McNamara said at the January hearing.

The Department of Health Services said Steele was released from their custody on Feb. 27.

Nicholson said family members said Steele’s death was “peaceful” Tuesday morning and that family members expressed to her being grateful for the opportunity to say goodbye in a private setting.

“If all of this had to happen, this was the most peaceful way that he could go,” Steele’s mother Phyllis said in a statement relayed through Nicholson.

Nicholson said she and law partner Nicholas Gansner were glad the case had ultimately reached its conclusion before Steele’s death.

The family of Ashlee and Kacee said Tuesday that they had mixed feelings about his death, in part because March 7th is also Kacee Tollefsbol’s birthday.

“We were planning on doing something for that and then this came up,” said Brad Putnam, brother of the victims. “With the news that Andy has finally died, I guess there is a bit of closure for me and my family knowing that he’s passed away. But at the same time a lot of unanswered questions that we know we’ll never get answered from this point on.”

Putnam said the family was never comfortable with the idea of Steele living in the Dane County community, and remained concerned about his ability to contact his children without supervision.

“There is some weight lifted off our shoulders knowing that will never happen,” Putnam said. “Hopefully he’s in a horrible place right now.”

Nicholson said services are pending, but will be held in Saginaw, Michigan where Steele grew up.