MADISON (WKOW) -- A jury's decision that former Dane County sheriff's deputy Andrew Steele is not legally responsible for the killings of his wife and sister-in-law draws a range of reaction.
Jurors early Wednesday morning found Steele did not have the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts, or conform his actions to the requirements of the law, due to a compromising mental disease. Steele was diagnosed with the terminal, neurological condition ALS two months before he strangled and fatally shot Ashlee Steele, and shot and killed Kacee Tollefsbol at Steele's Fitchburg home in August. Defense attorneys successfully argued an aspect of Steele's disease compromised his decision-making.
"We need to take brain disease seriously," Steele's attorney Jessa Nicholson says. "And we need to look at the way these people's functioning is affected by the neurological issues."
Before receiving his diagnosis and leaving law enforcement, Steele worked for more than a decade as a jailer for Sheriff David Mahoney.
"It's the system that we believe in, it's the system that we use, and so I respect the decision of this jury," Mahoney tells 27 News.
But Mahoney believes there will still be moral reckoning for Steele. "Ultimately, he will be held accountable at a higher power," Mahoney says.
Ashley Steele's former employers at a Christian preschool, Pastor Jeff Meyer of the Church, says he and Steele's co-workers are coming to grips with the jury's decision.
"Our team was quick to turn to the reality that God is in charge, even when we don 't necessarily get the results we'd like to see, or that we think is right," Meyer tells 27 News. "God is sovereign, and we keep trusting him. He sees a bigger picture than we do."
27 News contacted several members of the twelve person jury, but they declined comment on the decision at this time. Steele's civil, insanity phase trial required ten of twelve jurors to agree mental disease or defect was behind the crimes. Two jurors disagreed with decision..
Steele remains in the Rock County jail, where he's been housed since his arrest, due to a decision not to incarcerate him in the jail where he once worked. But the state department of health services will propose a mental health setting for Steele, which could be an institution, or a community placement with supervision and rules. A judge approves Steele's placement.
Nicholson says physicians have told Steele his life expectancy is no more than five years.