Snake Murder Conspirators Cut Deals

Both men accused of hatching a murder-by-snake plot to kill Amateur Poker Tour owner Matt Sowash have now had the most serious charges against them dropped. Herb Beck and Christopher Steelman (profiles in the September 27 feature "Free Poker Tour Is a Dead Man's Hand") were arrested in August, charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and extortion, and held in the Jefferson County Jail on $500,000 bonds.

Beck had invested money with the Wheat Ridge-based APT -- which the CBI is currently investigating for securities fraud -- and hired Steelman as a private detective because he believed Sowash was hiding money. The two then allegedly plotted to kill or extort money from Sowash, and sent him a series of threatening emails. But Steelman also went to Sowash separately to warn him, and cooperated with investigators.

In September, Steelman’s bond was reduced to $10,000 and the murder and kidnapping charges against him were dropped as part of an agreement reached with prosecutors.

On Friday, Beck received a similar deal. He pled guilty to extortion, the other charges against him were dropped and his bond reduced to $25,000. He will be sentenced Jan. 22.

Steelman’s arraignment on the extortion charge is Nov. 26.

Both men are out on bond. -- Jessica Centers

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Sean Cronin