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Judge grants conditional release for former Dane County Deputy Andrew Steele

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A judge grants conditional release to former Dane County Sheriff's deputy Andrew Steele, who has been at a state institution since a jury found him not guilty by reason of mental disease in the killing of his wife and sister-in-law.

Steele has the terminal disease ALS, and petitioned the court for release, with placement at a nursing home or assisted living facility to provide more specialized care, as the need for a ventilator is expected in the future.

"If he had  the slightest physical ability to harm himself or others, his petition would have to be denied,"  Dane County Judge Nicholas McNamara wrote in a 31-page decision.

"In this case, however...as a result of the advanced effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, today Mr. Steele is a person who cannot move any part of his body in any manner that would pose a significant risk,"  McNamara wrote.

Steele left his deputy position in 2014 as a result of his disease.  In August of that year, Steele strangled and fatally shot his wife, Ashlee Steele, and fatally shot his sister-in-law Kaycee Tollefsbol. 

A jury determined Steele was not guilty by mental disease or defect as the result of a progressive, neurological condition associated with his ALS.

Ashlee Steele's brother, Brad Putnam, along with his wife, are now legal guardians of the Steele's two children.

While accepting the children may continue to have contact with their father, Putnam says he worries about Steele's ability to psychologically harm them, if he is in a setting without the controls of his current living situation, Mendota Mental Health Institute.

"What we don't need...is for him to be released and call them at will...where my wife needs to be there to monitor what could happen,"  Putnam tells 27 News.  "He's already committed murder."

In his decision, McNamara reiterates what he stated during Steele's petition hearing:  Since the jury verdict, Steele has shown no deterioration in his mental state, and his behavior and memory show no abnormality, with the exception of his inability to recall the killings.

"Andrew Steele has the mind of a killer,"  McNamara wrote.

McNamara writes the lack of any progression in Steele's neurological condition convinces him Steele has no mental disease and knew what he was doing when he killed.  But McNamara writes jurors did not have the benefit of this time of observation of Steele, and acted appropriately given the evidence they had to consider.

"At least he gave us some justice by admitting that Andy knew what he was doing,"  Putnam says.

Steele's attorney, Jessa Nicholson says the judge's decision "...is not cause for celebration," as everyone connected to the case has suffered.  But she says she is "...gratified that the court followed the law."
A May hearing is scheduled to determine where Steele will live, and under what conditions.  Steele's attorneys have said their initial outreach to potentially, suitable facilities failed to locate one willing to accept Steele.


MADISON (WKOW) ---- A former Dane County deputy has been granted his request for conditional release from the Mendota Mental Health facility.

A Dane County judge released the ruling Friday regarding Andrew Steele.  Here is part of the ruling.

....as a result of the advanced effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, today Mr. Steele is a person who cannot move any part of his body in any manner that would post a significant risk of bodily harm to himself or others.  Continued institutional commitment has become unnecessary; the physical restrictions of institutional commitment pale in comparison to the total physical incapacitation caused by Mr. Steele’s terminal disease.  He is today a man with a dangerous mind trapped in a powerless, paralyzed body ravaged by an irreversible and unrelenting disease.  Because the State has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that at this time Mr. Steele poses a significant risk of bodily harm to himself or to others or of causing serious property damage if conditionally released…

Steele suffers from ALS and his attorney petitioned for his release because of his condition.

Steele is currently in Mendota Mental health after a jury found him not guilty by mental disease or defect after more than 10 hours of deliberating.

The former deputy admitted to killing his wife, Ashlee Steele and his sis-in-law Kacee Tollefsbol at his Fitchburg home in August 2014.  His attorney's argued his actions were a result of the disease.

Steele will be in court in May to discuss conditions of the release.

Here is the statement from Steele's attorney regarding today's ruling:

The result today is not cause for celebration by those close to the defense; make no mistake about that. Everyone involved in this case has felt the weight of the way these terrible human events---terminal illness, homicide, tearful trial testimony---throughout the proceedings.  We are, however, gratified that the court followed the law, and look forward to assisting Andy in this time of transition.

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