A fugitive arrested Monday in Atlanta has ties to the Kalamazoo men charged with dogfighting, authorities say.
The FBI Fugitive Task Force moved in on Sam Steel, 43, who is accused of murdering a Michigan man in 2011. Agents had followed the trail that Steel left behind as a dogfighter, including phone records and frozen dog sperm, which led straight to his Georgia hideout.
Sam Steel first made headlines in November 2011, when Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement served warrants on properties belonging to Steel and Travis Fields, 43. About 18 pit bulls were seized, in addition to detailed breeding records linking Steel and Fields to Kelvin Thomas and Leonard Turner. At the time, there was not enough evidence to arrest Thomas and Turner, however an anonymous tip a few months later would lead to a five-month-long investigation which resulted in both men being recently picked up on dogfighting charges.
Fields was charged with three felonies relating to dogfighting and his alleged use of bait animals. Animal fighting charges against Steel were pending while authorities poured over the vast amount of evidence seized.
In December 2011, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Sam Steel and Harry Matthews in connection with the April 2011 murder of Milo Conklin, 35. While Matthews was picked up by police, Steel fled the area.
Aware that Steel was using frozen sperm to preserve the bloodlines of his champion dogs, animal control officer Julie Barber began contacting sperm banks.
Sperm bank employees told Barber that Steel had been contacting them in an effort to get the sperm transported out-of-state. Barber was able to obtain the phone numbers that Steel had called from, which she handed over to the FBI.
The FBI used the phone numbers to locate Steel in Atlanta, where he was apprehended and charged with six felonies in connection with the murder. Felony animal fighting charges are also pending against him.
Steel is currently jailed in Georgia while he awaits extradition to Michigan, where he faces a possible life sentence in prison. Steel’s alleged accomplice, Harry Matthews, is behind bars facing multiple charges stemming from his involvement in Milo Conklin’s murder. Travis Fields pled guilty in July to possession of equipment used for the training of fighting dogs and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 4 in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. Leonard Turner and Kelvin Thomas remain incarcerated while awaiting trial on numerous animal fighting related charges.
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