In the state that produced the Teresa Halbach story and Making a Murderer, another dramatic case of homicide is developing in Wisconsin as a man faces a multitude of charges in an explosion that killed his wife.
Steven Pirus, 59, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson and five counts of animal mistreatment for the September 13 blast at the Madison, Wisconsin, home he shared with 50-year-old Lee Anne Pirus.
He is being held at the Dane County Jail on a $1 million bond.
Police say for months, Pirus was in a long-distant relationship with a Russian woman named Olga, who was trying to return to Madison. Receipts found on the property showed he had made cash withdrawals of $8,500, funds he paid to the Russian woman and people-search websites. Bank records showed Pirus was also a paid member of an online dating site.
Pirus initially claimed that when he left the home that morning, Lee Anne was asleep in the finished basement. The explosion leveled the house and killed two dogs and two cats. A third dog survived.
He changed his story later in the investigation, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators say after an autopsy revealed Lee Anne had been shot, Pirus said he found her dead from suicide weeks before and blew up the house because he did not want people to know she killed herself.
He said Lee Anne was suffering from mental illness and had mentioned suicide in the past. She was taking medication, he said, but whether she was on the brink of taking her own life remained a question. Her psychiatrist told police that Lee Anne denied in February to having suicidal thoughts, and that a March followup appointment was canceled by Steven.
Pirus told a third version of how his wife died when detectives revealed that her fatal gunshot wound was not consistent with suicide. Armed with a gun, she approached him in tears, he said, begging him to kill her. She “wore him down,” so he complied. He then loosened the natural gas line to their dryer. According to reports, the explosion was sparked by one of several possible ignition sources.
[Featured Image by Dane County Jail]