Try 1 month for 99¢

Bail was set at $1 million Tuesday for a man who Madison police said shot his wife sometime weeks ago and then blew up their Southwest Side home last week to cover up the crime.

Few new details about the death of Lee Anne Pirus, 50, were made available at a bail hearing for her husband, Steven D. Pirus, 59, who is expected to be formally charged Thursday with first-degree intentional homicide, arson and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Assistant District Attorney David Hart said the District Attorney’s Office is awaiting more reports from Madison police, the state Division of Criminal Investigation and the Madison Fire Department about Lee Anne Pirus’ death and the explosion last Wednesday at their home at 7806 Stratton Way.

The explosion sparked a fire and sent debris flying into the street and neighbors’ yards, and kept some neighbors from getting back into their homes for several days.

“We know that the defendant’s wife died from a gunshot wound to the head,” Hart said. “We can’t determine when she died because of the decomposition of her body.”

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Sunday that Lee Anne Pirus may have been dead “weeks, if not months.” He said that Steven Pirus has “vacillated between his motives,” leaving investigators to try to determine what would have caused him to kill his wife.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in court Tuesday, Pirus told police Saturday that his wife died sometime between July 30 and Aug. 12, after he shot her at their home. He also told police that she asked him to kill her, the affidavit states.

Hart said that Pirus made several false statements during the investigation of the case and had packed up many of his own belongings and moved them out of the home before blowing it up.

Hart asked for $1 million bail, while state Assistant Public Defender David Klauser, appearing with Pirus, asked only for a more reasonable amount, given that no formal charges have been filed yet.

Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis said Sunday that natural gas was involved in the explosion, which was ruled intentional.

“The defendant admitted to loosening the gas lines in his house at the dryer and extinguishing the water heater pilot so that the gas would keep going,” Hart said. Investigators found a flexible gas pipe that was connected to the dryer, but no longer connected to the gas supply coming into the home. Hart said that investigators concluded that the pipe was manually disconnected before the explosion.

The probable cause affidavit states that Pirus told police he opened the gas line to blow up the house because he wanted to conceal that his wife had been shot in the head.

Dane County Court Commissioner Brian Asmus said that $1 million bail is reasonable given the steps that Pirus took to cover up the shooting death of his wife and avoid what would be at a minimum 20 years in prison.

“What’s going through my mind now,” Asmus said, “is he’s willing to go to the extreme of blowing up the house, as alleged by attorney Hart, to avoid detection of the first-degree intentional homicide, what’s he willing to do to avoid showing up in court?”

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.