The Ottumwa Courier

November 8, 2013

Five witnesses take stand Friday morning at Techel Trial

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — MT. PLEASANT—Through the morning of the Seth Techel first-degree murder trial on Friday, the defense has called five witnesses to the stand.

The first, Chief Deputy Don Phillips, continued his testimony from Thursday. On May 30, 2012, four days after the death of Lisa Techel, he interviewed Brian Tate, the neighbor of Techel whom the defense says should be more of a suspect than Techel.

In the interview, Tate made references to the Wapello County Sheriff’s office not taking the proper interest into vandalism accounts that he made. Prosecutor Andy Prosser played portions of the recording of the interview for jurors, in which Tate mentioned that officers were not looking into his case, and if they would have been, “none of this would have happened.”

Phillips, at the time of Tate’s comments, thought he was talking about the vandalism on his property, not the murder of Lisa Techel.

“He was explaining to me that if we would have been in the area more, the vandalism wouldn’t have occurred,” Phillips said.

Tate also showed Phillips his collection of guns, which were in a corner of his basement. According to Tate in the interview tape, he had several guns in his home, but none of them were loaded though there were rounds in them ready to be loaded. Tate can be heard in the recording saying, “I keep them right there in the corner where I can bail out of bed and get right down here in case someone comes in and starts shooting at me.”

The next witness called by the defense was Allison Murtha, manager of forensics with RJ Lee Group, INC. She has training in forensic science and gunshot residue examination and works on approximately 100 cases per year dealing with gunshot residue.

According to Murtha, anytime there is a chance that gunshot residue samples can be taken, they should be. Firearms expert Victor Murillo, who testified Thursday, said they did not carry out a gunshot residue test on scene and that his office does not regularly residue tests.

The defense then called two witnesses who gave very short testimonies. The first, Dr. Steven Quackenbush, was asked if he performed a drug screen on Techel. He said he had, and it came back negative for any substances. The second, Mark Hagist, who is an investigator for the Wapello County Medical Examiner, was in charge of investigating the body of Lisa Techel. He said after the crime lab was finished investigating the scene, he took photos and made observations of the body before identifying it and tagging it. Lisa Techel’s body was then removed from the scene.

Jeremy Weller, the reserve policeman who found the murder weapon just outside the Techel home on May 27, 2012, was the last witness called to the stand before the lunch break. Defense attorney Robert Box questioned him about the area where he found the shotgun, which was in the tall grass beside the home and close to a tree, according to Weller.

Court then took a recess for lunch, with Weller scheduled to come back to the stand after the break.

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