Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

October 31, 2013

Testimony begins in Techel retrial

MT. PLEASANT — After two days of jury selection, Seth Techel's retrial on charges of murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy began Wednesday.

Opening statements took the entire morning session, with the attorneys laying out sharply different accounts.

Techel is accused of killing his wife, Lisa, in 2012 at the trailer the couple shared near Agency. His first trial ended with a hung jury. The retrial is taking place in Mt. Pleasant, about an hour east of Ottumwa.

Prosecutors say Techel was the only person with the opportunity and motive to kill Lisa. The defense says investigators failed to adequately pursue other leads, including a neighbor with whom Techel had quarreled.

Prosecutors sought during their opening statements to paint Techel as calculating, saying he took 18 minutes to call 911 after shooting his wife. Scott Brown said Techel needed time to hide the murder weapon and wanted to make sure Lisa was dead.

“Someone who is truly in a panic would not take 18 minutes to call for help,” Brown said.

Brown said the only thing that makes sense in the case is that Techel, one of only two people in the couple's trailer, killed his wife.

“Who murdered Lisa Techel? The evidence in this case will show that it was Seth Techel,” said Brown

Defense attorney Steven Gardner worked to undermine the prosecution's timeline. He said the prosecution's timeline requires Techel to shoot Lisa almost as soon as their alarm went off at 5 a.m. But that doesn't work if Techel let the dog out, talked with Lisa, and then was in the shower for about five minutes before hearing the gunshot, as the defense claims.

“For whatever reason the state did not say anything in their opening statement about fact,” Gardner said.

Gardner also focused on Brian Tate, the neighbor with whom Seth Techel had running disagreements. The defense contends law enforcement knew Tate was dangerous and, in fact, had warned deputies to be cautious when dealing with him. Law enforcement delayed talking to Tate, Gardner said, then ignored what the defense views as suspicious statements.

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