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May 31, 2012

Authorities: 'No evidence' of intruder in Techel murder

OTTUMWA — Police allege a husband killed his pregnant wife because he was unhappy in the marriage and wanted to be with another woman.

Funeral services were held Thursday for Lisa Techel, 23, who died inside her rural Agency home early Saturday. Investigators say she was killed by a single 12 gauge shotgun slug.

Authorities arrested her husband, Seth Techel, 21, at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Wapello County Sheriff Don Kirkendall said after being charged, Seth Techel was moved to a jail in “a neighboring county,” where he is currently being held on $750,000 cash only bail.

After reading a prepared statement to the press, Kirkendall handed out a copy of the “affidavit,” a sort of overview of what facts investigators found which made them want to arrest the defendant.


During their search around the Fox Hills Road residence, they found a shotgun in nearby tall grass, as well as a prepaid cell phone.

The shotgun, they say, may be the same one that had been left behind by a former housemate, whom police interviewed. The 12-gauge had been left — loaded — inside the home, near the front door. And a Trac Phone may have been used to carry on a possible romantic relationship with another woman, officials said.

“Communication and interaction ... was ongoing since approximately October 2011.” The woman confirmed to investigators Seth Techel bought the phone this past February “so that he would be able to communicate ... without Lisa finding out.”

Investigators claim that Seth Techel told the woman “he was not happy in his marriage” and had told his wife that. Two weeks before the shooting, authorities allege, he also told the woman that “it will all be better in a couple weeks.”

Seth Techel has denied involvement in the shooting, the affidavit states. He said he was in the shower when he heard a loud noise and came out to find Lisa in the bedroom, shot.

Initially, he denied being involved in any extra marital activity, denied having a Trac Phone and, when asked about guns in the residence, listed five firearms without mentioning to investigators that the former housemate had left behind his shotgun, “which is believed to be the murder weapon.”

When found in the grass 90 feet from the home, the gun had one shell in the chamber, which appeared to have been fired, as well as four live rounds in the gun.

At about 4:30 p.m. on May 27, police told Seth Techel he could go home. At 7 p.m. Techel and another man arrived at the Fox Hills Road property. The home was under surveillance by law enforcement standing in a wooded area close to the tall grass where they’d discovered the possible murder weapon.

Soon, Seth Techel walked out of the house toward the tall grass, and “appeared to be looking around the area where the Mossberg shotgun had been.”

The complaint closes with a DCI investigator writing, “Thus far, no evidence has been discovered that indicates any intruder or other subject was in the Techel household at the time of the homicide, other than the defendant.”

Sheriff Kirkendall said he was “very confident” they had the right person in custody.

The sheriff said he would not be answering questions about the investigation. He did, however, answer some general questions.

He’d known Lisa Techel since her birth, and thought she was a “super” young person, and that other sheriff’s employees knew her and liked her.

“Once we got the service out of the way, the healing could begin,” Kirkendall said.

He had told media the 1 p.m. start time for the press conference was because he wanted department employees to be able to attend the funeral Thursday morning.

Lisa was a correctional officer in nearby Washington County and was on Kirkendall’s reserve force as a deputy. Her father is a deputy sheriff for Wapello County, and Seth had been going through the hiring process to become a Wapello County Jail correctional officer, but, said Kirkendall, that hiring had not been finalized.

On the one hand, he said, officers felt grief. On the other hand, those assigned to the case had to remain focused because they had a job to do.

“It’s been a tough couple of days ...” Kirkendall said.

He acknowledged the press and the public had not received frequent updates on the shooting investigation or much detail.

In an investigation in which media and the public heard conflicting rumors spreading, facts could have quickly ended stories of an angry, trigger-happy neighbor, a threatening, disgruntled former co-worker or a shell-shocked combat veteran

Law enforcement had been slow in releasing information not to be evasive, Kirkendall said, but to be accurate. For one thing, as the case developed, there were instances where the release of information would have just been speculation. He wanted only accurate information to get out — even if it took a little longer to release.

Additionally, he said, he didn’t want to release any information that could damage the case. That case is now in the hands of the Iowa Attorney General’s office, said Kirkendall.


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