A terminally ill former Wisconsin deputy sheriff was found not guilty on Thursday in the shooting deaths of his wife and her sister in his home due to his degenerative neurological disease, court documents showed.
In a 10-2 decision, jurors found Andrew Steele, 40, was not responsible for the 2014 killings, by reason of mental disease, according to the records.
His attorney had argued that his judgment was impaired by his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
"The verdict stands for the recognition that brain disorders can and should be considered in evaluating criminal responsibility," said his lawyer, Jessa Nicholson, in a phone interview.
Steele faced two counts of intentional first-degree homicide in Dane County Circuit Court for the killing of his wife Ashlee Steele, and her sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.
On Aug. 22, 2014, Tollefsbol called 911 to report that Steele had shot her. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital, according to a criminal complaint filed by police.
Officers found Ashlee Steele fatally wounded in bed, with a plastic zip tie device around her neck, police said.
Andrew Steele was found lying on the laundry room floor next to a 9mm handgun but not injured. He had lit a charcoal-burning stove in the room and carbon monoxide detector alarms were sounding, the complaint said.
Steele left his job as deputy sheriff in June 2014 for medical reasons, according to his attorney. His wife had helped organize fund-raisers to help pay for his care, the complaint said.
"My client and his family are grateful for the attentiveness paid by the jury, but continue to view this entire situation as a tragedy," Nicholson said.
(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee. Editing by Letitia Stein; and Peter Galloway)