Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

November 5, 2013

Caldwell: 'I couldn't have been more proud'

Courier staff writer

---- — MT. PLEASANT — Todd Caldwell, Lisa Techel's father, took the stand at Seth Techel's murder trial Monday to tell jurors about his daughter.

Caldwell, who worked in the Wapello County Sheriff's Department, said he was close to his daughter. They were in daily contact, with calls and text messages. They would occasionally grab lunch together, since Lisa was a reserve deputy.

“I couldn't have been more proud. I couldn't have had a better friend,” he said.

Caldwell teared up briefly while talking about Lisa, but his voice steadied as he was questioned about how he came to know Techel. He frequently looked right at Techel, who sat nearby at the defense table, as he answered.

The morning of the murder it was a dispatcher who sent Caldwell to the trailer.

“A dispatcher called me at home and woke me up. The dispatcher told me I had to get out to Lisa's house, that she had been shot and wasn't breathing,” he said.

Caldwell's instructions at the scene to deputies to “Get him,” were a reference to Brian Tate, he said. The defense has suggested Tate, who lived adjacent to the Techels, is a better suspect in the murder than Techel.

Tate had accused Seth of vandalism. Caldwell interviewed him as part of the investigation. Tate showed Caldwell rocks he said were thrown at his property and a can of dog feces he had collected. Both, he claimed, came were the result of harassment by Techel.

Caldwell didn't believe the accusations.

“What he was saying and what my son-in-law was saying were different. I tended to believe my son-in-law,” he said.

The accusations were true, though. Earlier Monday, Michael Owings told jurors Techel enlisted him to harass Brian Tate. Defense attorney Steven Gardner characterized Owing's actions a “prank.”

Tyler Batterson, another teen who was asked by Techel to “mess with” Tate, took the stand and recounted his interactions with Techel.

Batterson said he, Owing, and two others left dog feces in Tate's yard..

“Did you tell Seth Techel what you had done?” Brown asked.

“Yes,” Batterson replied.

“What was his reaction?”

“He laughed,” Batterson said.

Gardner's cross examination of Caldwell largely focused on his interactions with Tate. When asked whether he recalled Tate saying Seth and Lisa Techel were "possible terrorists," Caldwell said, "No. That's not true."

"That's in your report," Gardner responded.

Caldwell said that was his conclusion based on conversations with Tate, rather than a specific accusation made by Tate.