Man Killed Grandmother For Blowing Nose At Dinner Table
Before Timothy Robert Steele beat his 84-year-old grandmother to death last week as she lay in bed in Farmington, investigators said, he imagined voices in his head.
Steele, 35, was upset with Agnes Wagner-Steele, blaming her for a hole in his jacket and annoyed she had been blowing her nose at dinner, authorities reported Monday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.
As she blew her nose, Steele believed he could feel the mucus in his mouth and smell it, according to a complaint charging him with second-degree intentional murder.
The only way to make it stop, the complaint said the voices told him, was to kill her.
“At that point, defendant went downstairs to another bedroom to get a hammer,” the complaint said.
Steele was living with his mother, Diane Steele, at his grandmother’s home in the 600 block of Linden Street, next-door neighbor Marlene Beeney said Monday. Beeney said the victim suffered from dementia and diabetes, and Diane Steele had moved into the home to care for the elderly woman.
According to the complaint, a woman identified by the initials “D.S.” called police about 11:45 p.m. Thursday to report that her mother was unconscious and appeared to be dead. The caller said the victim’s grandson had beaten her in the head with a hammer.
When police arrived, the suspect was “very calm and collected,” according to the complaint. When asked what happened, Steele said he killed his grandmother, the complaint said.
Wagner-Steele was found dead in an upstairs bedroom, with injuries on the right side of her head.
According to the complaint, Steele told police he had struck her with the hammer seven to eight times. He then went to the store to buy cigarettes.
Investigators said Steele told them voices in his head were now telling him he was a “terrible criminal.” He considered running and hiding, he said, but knew he had nowhere to go.
So after returning from the store, he told “D.S.” he had killed his grandmother, the complaint said. When “D.S.” found Wagner-Steele, her body was cold to the touch.
At that point, Steele threatened to find a gun and kill himself, so “D.S.” reportedly tried to calm him down by driving him around in her car for 20 minutes to an hour.
“D.S. convinced the defendant not to kill himself,” the complaint read. “D.S. also explained to the defendant that they need to go back to the house and call 911, which D.S. then did.”
State court records show Steele has a criminal history that dates to 1998 and includes convictions for consumption of alcohol as a minor and disorderly conduct and one conviction each for aiding and abetting felony burglary, felony terroristic threats, gross misdemeanor interfering with a 911 call and misdemeanor theft.
His most recent conviction was in April, after he was cited for misdemeanor trespassing on railroad tracks.
According to a police report, a conductor saw Steele step onto the tracks near Third and Pine streets Feb. 25 as a train approached just before 1 p.m. The conductor, who made an emergency stop, said Steele “put his arms out” and he thought Steele was trying to commit suicide, the report said.
Steele said afterward that “it was just a joke,” the report read.
Farmington police records show there have been 16 police calls to the Linden Street home over the past five years, with reports over mental health concerns, ongoing problems with a neighbor and potential medical situations.
“The vast majority had to do with Tim,” Police Chief Brian Lindquist said Monday.
The latest call before Thursday night was a report Steele had ingested a poison, Lindquist said. Steele was taken to a local hospital.
Beeney, the next-door neighbor, said Steele had been dealing with mental health issues in recent years.
“”He was very nice to talk to,” she said. “You could tell he was in trouble and knew that he had been treated for mental illness — bipolar. … He must’ve just snapped.
“(Wagner-Steele) was a very kind woman and very private and kept to herself quite a bit,” added Beeney, a neighbor of more than 50 years.
Wagner-Steele’s husband, Robert, died about five to 10 years ago, she said. He had owned and operated a furniture store in Farmington for many years.
Beeney said she “can’t even imagine” what Diane Steele is going through.
“It has to be extremely sad,” she said. “I feel bad for her.”
Judge Shawn M. Moynihan set bail for Steele at $750,000 without conditions, or $500,000 with conditions.
Steele’s next court appearance has been scheduled for Jan. 12 in Hastings.
Wagner-Steele’s death is the first homicide in the south metro suburb since June 1975, Lindquist said. In that case, a man admitted to striking his wife in the head with a shingle hammer while she lay in bed in the upstairs of their home at 18 Oak St.