Role in the filmEdit
Following the deaths of Sir Peter Van Garrett and his son Dirk, Baltus Van Tassel and the town elders (consisting of Reverend Steenwyck, Dr. Thomas Lancaster, Notary James Hardenbrook, and Magistrate Samuel Phillipse) called in New York inspector Ichabod Crane to investigate the murders. They told him of the story of the Headless Horseman, believing that he has been risen from the grave and have been chopping off heads at random (including the Van Garretts).
At first, Ichabord finds the elders' story to be ridiculous (due to his skepticism), but realizes that they were right after witnessing Magistrate Phillipse being murdered by the Headless Hessian himself. As the story goes on, Ichabod soon learns that a widow named Emily Winship (one of the Horseman's victims) was pregnant and married Peter to inherit the fortune to her unborn child. He also learned that the four town elders were involved in covering the secret from the town as Reverend Steenwyck performed the marriage ceremony for Peter and Emily, believing that Baltus stole the skull from the Horseman's grave and controlled him to committed the murders to inherit the fortune for his family.
However, this wasn't the case when it turns out that Lady Van Tassel is the one behind the murders as she held a grudge against the Van Garrett family for her family's eviction when she was a child. It also turns that the town elders were held under her thumb to formulate the murder plot, but unlike Lancaster, Phillipse and Hardenbrook (who were blackmailed into conspiring against Baltus), Steenwyck willingly played along due to his lust for Lady Van Tassel; he even had sex with her in the woods one night (which was witnessed by Ichabod himself).
Eventually, following Hardenbrook's suicide, Steenwyck calls for a meeting in the church for everyone to speak out against Ichabod, but the Horseman arrives one night to kill Baltus at the church. Knowing that Baltus is the one that the Horseman wants, Steenwyck intends to turn him over to the Horseman to save himself, unaware that the Horseman cannot enter the church (due to a protection spell cast by Baltus' daughter Katrina). As Baltus grabs a gun to defend himself, Dr. Lancaster decides to confess his sins to Baltus by attempting to inform him about the conspiracy that Lady Van Tassel plotted. However, Steenwyck kills Lancaster by smashing his head with a wooden cross to prevent him from doing so, but this frightened an angry Baltus to retaliate by shooting Steenwyck in the heart, much to everyone's shock.