The Ottumwa Courier

October 31, 2013

First deputy on scene called to stand

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Late-morning testimony in the murder trial of Seth Techel had fewer interruptions than the earlier part of the day.

The prosecution did not like the defense's method of asking questions.

First, Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown objected to Steve Gardner’s questions because they would violate the “hearsay rule.” Gardner seemed to want a witness to say what someone else had said. He’d ask if Mr. Tate told him this or that.

But Brown most strongly reacted to Gardner, in a sense, telling the story he wanted the jury to hear. Brown repeatedly objected to what he called improper questions. For example, Gardner would say, “Did Mr. Tate tell you he was on guard duty at that time?” So in that case, he’s telling the jury that Tate may have been on guard duty or worked as a guard or may have, at some point, conducted some form of “guard duty.”

Attorneys are apparently not allowed to ask questions in that manner. Brown and the judge said it was acceptable to say to the witness, “What did Mr. Tate tell you?” or “Did Mr. Tate tell you what he was doing at that time?”

After the judge, the defense and the prosecution spoke, Gardner changed course, asking about fingerprints.

The evidence this morning included video from Deputy Marty Wonderlin’s patrol car on the morning Lisa Caldwell Techel was shot. Seth Techel could be heard sobbing on and off throught the tape.

After he heard a loud bang, he told the deputy, he jumps out of the shower, he said, grabs his handgun and runs down the hallway. Techel sobbed in the video that “I was going to kill whoever did this.”

Next on the video, a family member went into the house, then, a moment later, can be heard screaming. Seth, crying, sobbing, pauses and asks Wonderlin, "Can you call my work?"

Wonderlin declines and tells him, gently, that is not the priority right now.

The evidence shown in court Thursday revealed law enforcement officers grabbing heavier weapons from their cars. They then searched the property, looking for a potential assailant.

Gardner: “On video, we hear someone say, ‘Crazy nut job.' Was that you or the other deputy that said that?” Wonderlin: “I don't recall who said that.”

The final witness before lunch was a representative from U.S. Cellular. The prosecution asked him to explain a stack of phone record evidence. Some were incoming calls, some outgoing, some were texts. One phone belonged to Lisa Techel; another phone belonged to a Rachel McFarland. The prosecution’s examination of the witness was brief. Gardner’s was briefer. In fact, he had only one question.

“You say your [office] is in West Burlington.”

Yes,” answered the representative.

“What is the street address there?” Gardner asked.

The representative gave the address in West Burlington.

“No further questions, your honor,” Gardner said.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark