Trial set for former sheriff’s deputy, plea change not ruled out

Steele appears in court in wheelchair
Trial set for former sheriff’s deputy, plea change not ruled out
Andrew Steele

A former Dane County sheriff’s deputy will stand trial in a double homicide on April 13.

Andrew Steele was charged in August in the deaths of his wife, Ashlee Steele, and sister-in-law, Kacee Tollefsbol, who were shot in the Steele’s Fitchburg home on Aug. 22. Steele was charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and pleaded not guilty to the crimes in September.

During a court hearing Monday, Steele appeared in court in a wheelchair. Steele was diagnosed with ALS this summer before the crimes. His family had been trying to raise money for his medical care at the time of the killings. Steele’s attorney, Jessa Nicholson, said in court Monday that his ALS has progressed 25 percent since his diagnosis.

“It’s my understanding at the time of diagnosis particularly with regard to lungs and swallowing there was a 30 percent progression and he’s now up to a 56 percent progression,” Nicholson told a judge Monday. “That has some implications and perhaps goes to speak to why we’re contemplating what I would describe as a fairly aggressive pretrial motion and trial schedule.”

Judge Nicholas McNamara set the trial for April 13, with pre-trial motions to be heard in March and expert witness information filed in February.

Nicholson also told the judge and reporters that she had not yet ruled out a change in plea for Steele to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. She said she had not yet received all investigative information from the state and would make that decision in the future.

She also said Steele does not plan on entering an alibi defense in the trial.

Court documents claim Steele planned the homicides of his wife and sister-in-law for “a number of days” and left a note on his phone detailing his plan.

Assistant District Attorney Andrea Raymond said evidence collected by the state shows Steele “was insistent” that Tollefsbol visit the Steele family in Fitchburg alone, “leaving her newlywed husband and children in Minnesota.” Raymond said Steele signed his will and his wife’s will within 36 hours of the homicides, and in communications with his parents “contemplates his wife being absent in the future.”

The DA’s Office claims Steele left a note on his phone detailing his plan, “including contemplating different methods of homicide,” in an effort that Raymond called “meticulous.”