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Pair accused of trying to kill poker host with snakes

8/20/2007

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — 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.