MT. PLEASANT — The defense began its case in Seth Techel's retrial on Thursday, putting a spotlight on Techel neighbor Brian Tate.
The defense contends Tate is a likely suspect in Lisa Techel's murder and one investigators overlooked. Prosecutors argue there is no evidence to connect Tate to the crime.
Druecilla Chickering was the first witness for the defense. She said she had a friendly relationship with the Techels but a more uneasy relationship with Tate. She called him, “kind of a different person.”
“I always thought he was odd, even a little weird at times,” she said.
Prosecutors asked whether Techel had asked about Tate.
“[Techel] said he was having some problems with Brian, and he wanted to know what my husband and I thought,” she said.
“What did you tell him about Brian Tate?” asked prosecutor Andy Prosser.
“I just said he was different. We didn't really know much about him, other than what he told us,” she replied.
Jack Chickering, Druecilla's husband, said he talked with Tate occasionally. Tate called him two or three days after the murder. During the conversation, Tate said it wouldn't have happened if the sheriff's department had done their jobs.
The conversation concerned Chickering enough to call the sheriff's department and report it.
Under cross examination, Chickering said he wasn't generally worried about Tate being a threat to others.
The defense continued its focus on Tate when it called Sheriff Mark Miller. Miller was chief deputy in the Wapello County Sheriff's Department at the time of the murder. He responded to the Techel property and remained there “for quite some time.”
“Was Seth there, still there when you left?” asked defense attorney Robert Box.
“I don't recall,” Miller said.
Miller said the department knew of Tate as a potential threat to deputies' safety. Box focused on an email from the department's dispatchers about Todd Caldwell's concerns. The email included a reference to a Keokuk County deputy killed by a mentally ill man.