The Ottumwa Courier

November 13, 2013

Techel trial: Defense rests, prosecution gives closing argument

Courier staff writer

---- — MT. PLEASANT—Wednesday morning was the start of the biggest day in the Seth Techel murder trial.

When the jury entered the courtroom around 10 a.m., the defense started wrapping up its case six days after it started.

After defense attorney Steve Gardner stated, “The defense rests,” the prosecution had a chance to provide a rebuttal, but there was none. Judge Daniel Wilson proceeded to give instruction to the jury about how to come to a decision and what evidence they can consider in their decision.

Once instruction was given to the jury, the prosecution gave their closing argument. Prosecutor Andy Prosser made the case that Techel, and only Techel, is the one guilty in the case based on the evidence provided.

“There is a pile of evidence in this case that it is the defendant,” Prosser said. “The defendant was the only one there. There is no other evidence that anyone else was there.”

He said no one except for Techel had a reason to murder Lisa Techel because of the relationship Techel had with Rachel McFarland. Their relationship was very intimate and kept a secret from Lisa Techel as long as it could have been.

Prosser pointed to the increasing provocativeness of the emails and text messages between Techel and McFarland as being somewhat of a countdown to Lisa Techel’s murder. On May 24, just two days before the murder, Techel told McFarland he was cutting things off with his wife so they could be together, and the two used strong language while texting and emailing.

It was also documented that Techel mentioned he couldn’t divorce his wife because of child support, since Lisa Techel was pregnant, and because Todd Caldwell, Lisa’s father, was getting Techel a job. Since he could not divorce his wife, the prosecution has argued, Techel had to get her out of the picture in another way so he could be with McFarland.

Prosser moved from there into the differences in the stories Techel told officers following the murder. In three different conversations, Techel told three different accounts of what he did with his dog, Remington, on the morning just before Lisa’s death. In the first he made no mention of the dog, while in the other two he said he tended to the dog, though those stories also differed.

Techel’s story about what happened after he discovered Lisa had been shot was also fishy, according to Prosser. From different interviews between Techel and officers, it is concluded that after he found his wife’s body, Techel ran out of the house onto the back porch without a weapon. If he was suspecting that someone came into his home and killed his wife, said Prosser, why would he exit his home without one of the many guns he had?

“This is the guy that goes outside to investigate strange sounds with his gun,” Prosser said. “But when there is a killer on the loose, he goes outside without it.”

Prosser also brought up the fact that Techel told DCI Special Agent Chris Thomas he was scared of Brian Tate, his mentally ill neighbor. If that was the case, though, why would he leave the doors to his home unlocked? And on the morning of his wife’s death, why would he go outside without a gun if he suspected Tate of killing his wife just a few minutes earlier?

All of these questions were asked by Prosser to try and show the jury why Techel is, according to the prosecution, guilty.

“The defendant, and only the defendant, had the means, the motive and the opportunity to kill Lisa,” Prosser said. “On top of that, he repeatedly deceived the police … and then he tried to blame his mentally ill neighbor. He is guilty of murder in the first degree.”

Prosser closed just as the judge granted lunch recess. The defense will give its closing argument when court resumes in the afternoon.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh