ME: No evidence anyone tried to remove zip tie from Ashlee Steele’s neck

Steele ordered to stay in institution; says ‘I caused their death’
Andrew Steele

A deputy Dane County medical examiner revealed new details in the deaths of two women at the start of the second week of Andrew Steele’s murder trial.

Steele pleaded not guilty by mental disease or defect in the killings of his wife, Ashlee Steele, and sister-in-law, Kacee Tollefsbol, last August in Fitchburg.

Family members of Ashlee Steele, Andrew Steele and Tollefsbol and medical experts testified during the first five days of the trial last week.

On Monday, the judge, in an announcement of agreed-upon facts by both sides, told the jury that an analyst found DNA from Andrew Steele and Tollefsbol on the 9mm handgun that was found inside the home.

The jury was shown photos of the crime scene and autopsy pictures, including photos of Ashlee Steele with markings on her wrists and a zip tie around her neck.

Agnieszka Rogalska, deputy medical examiner, said she found Ashlee Steele in a position in bed she thought may have been staged.

“There is always the possibility, especially when you have undergarments or garments overlying the genital area…one always has to suspect a sexual assault with a staging after death,” Rogalska said.

Rogalska said her tests did not prove a sexual assault happened, but she also told the jury that she found defensive wounds on Ashlee, a sleep mask on her face and a zip tie cinched to just under 11 inches in circumference around her neck.

“It was very difficult to get a piece of scissors underneath there,” Rogalska said.

Rogalska said she did not see evidence that anyone tried to remove the zip tie from Ashlee Steele’s neck, but Andrew Steele previously claimed he tried.

Jurors were also shown pictures of Tollefsbol with a number of markings on her face “from falling or being struck,” the medical examiner said. Tollefsbol also had multiple contusions on her face, significant brain injuries and a broken nose.

The lead detective on the case testified late Monday that he found evidence of a struggle in other parts of the home, including blood, zip ties and handcuffs.

He also said that Steele’s story changed when he was interviewed by police, first saying Tollefsbol kicked in a door when he called for help with his wife, but then saying he ran into her in the living room.

The trial is expected to continue the rest of the week.