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Men accused of murder-by-snake plot

Sat Aug 18, 3:03 PM ET

Two men who allegedly tried to use rattlesnakes as deadly weapons to collect on a debt have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said.

The Lakewood men were allegedly trying to kill Matthew Sowash, owner of Amateur Poker Tour in Wheat Ridge, because he owed them $60,000, Jim Shires of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office said. Arrest affidavits say Sowash’s company stages Texas Hold’em-style poker games in Denver area bars.

Herbert Paul Beck, 56, was arrested Thursday in Raton, N.M., and Christopher Lee Steelman, 34, was arrested Wednesday in Lakewood.

Bail for each suspect was set at $500,000 on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and extortion.

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 to hold the snakes and “the lid was to be built to allow Sowash’s legs to be put inside but not pulled out.”

“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 Colorado Bureau of Investigation after getting threatening e-mails.

Both defendants have extensive arrest records. Shires didn’t know if they had lawyers to speak for them.





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