Formal Charges Filed In Rattlesnake Hit Man Case
Lakewood Men Accused Of Planning Slaying By Snakes
POSTED: 8:54 am MDT August 22, 2007
GOLDEN, Colo. -- Two Lakewood men have been formally charged with a plot of trying to use rattlesnakes as hit men to collect on a gambling debt.
The men were allegedly trying to kill Matthew Sowash, owner of Amateur Poker Tour in Wheat Ridge because he owed them $60,000, according to court records. Arrest affidavits said Sowash's company stages Texas Hold'em-style poke games in Denver area bars.
An investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation led to the arrest of Herbert Paul Beck, 56, Thursday night in Raton, N.M., and Christopher Lee Steelman, 34, Wednesday night in Lakewood.
Jefferson County spokeswoman Pam Russell said the men were charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and extortion.
Bail for each suspect was set at $500,000. Beck is being held in Raton and Steelman in the Jefferson County Jail in Golden.
Investigators said Steelman told them the two men discussed ways to kill Sowash and Beck suggested rattlesnakes. Beck allegedly told investigators he invested $36,000 in the company last December, and with interest was due $60,000.
The plan was to build a wooden box for Sowash to stand in that would hold the snakes, and "the lid was to be built to allow Sowash's legs to be put inside but not pulled out." The plan was to leave the rattlesnake-bitten Sowash on a hiking trail.
"The final and most disturbing method to Steelman was Beck wanting to kidnap Sowash's children and use them as leverage to get the money from Sowash," according to the affidavits.
Sowash contacted the CBI after getting threatening e-mails.