The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 25, 2013

Trial turns to motive

OTTUMWA — Records of phone calls to a love interest became the most important evidence Monday in the trial of Seth Techel, accused of killing his pregnant wife, Lisa.

Prosecutors used phone records in the morning to show how frequently Techel and the woman he was interested in, co-worker Rachel McFarland, communicated.

McFarland, 22, of Bloomfield, took the stand Monday afternoon. She met Techel at Job Corps in November, 2011, where they worked. The messages they sent each other on Facebook started off innocently. By December, she said, the messages were becoming flirtatious.

“In one direction or both?” asked Andrew Prosser of the Iowa Attorney General’s office.

“Both,” admitted McFarland, who also acknowledged knowing Techel was married.

When her boyfriend saw the Facebook communications on the computer they shared at their home in Eldon, he told her to stop it. She deleted Techel, taking him off her “friends” list on Facebook in January 2012.

After Techel came up with a fake name, Rick Jones, he and McFarland resumed sending each other emails, she said. Those emails became more explicit, with sexually suggestive comments and nude or near-nude photos sent between the two.  

“How were you feeling toward Mr. Techel?” asked Prosser.

“I liked him,” McFarland said.

Drew Ballard, 26 of Eldon, who’d been living with McFarland in January, 2012,  testified to finding their computer still logged in to her email. And there were many emails from a name he didn’t recognize. He read them.

He printed the emails, then texted McFarland that they had to talk. He confronted her. McFarland testified that she felt “really bad,” and that Ballard had done nothing to deserve such treatment.

“I was going to try to work things out with Drew,” she testified.

The emailing stopped. That’s when Seth Techel bought a TracFone, she said.

Around this time, she received a very angry phone call from Lisa Techel. Details of that call were not entered into evidence, but it did include some swearing, McFarland acknowledged.

She and Seth Techel then began using the TracFone to text one another.

“He wanted to be with me... when he divorced his wife,” McFarland said.

Occasionally, they would meet up, though never at Job Corps where they both worked, she said. Usually, they’d meet at a park. They’d talk, sometimes about sex, kiss, touch each other through their clothing.

“Did you love him?” Prosser asked.

She did, she said.

Around this time — May, 2012 — she and the man she lived with broke up. She said there was no specific reason that happened. Ballard later testified the relationship with Techel was a factor in asking her to leave.

She went to meet with Techel at Pioneer Ridge Nature Area. He told her he loved her, she said.  That wasn’t the first time. He said we had everything in common, and that things weren’t working out with Lisa, she testified. Rachel suggested counseling “to be sure.”

While at Pioneer Ridge, Rachel said, she received a phone call from another man she had met at Job Corps. At that point, she said, she and the other man were just friends, but she admitted that she liked him. They eventually became boyfriend and girlfriend.

Techel was angry when the man called, McFarland testified, and acted very jealous.

“That’s when he said, ‘Just give me two more weeks,’” she testified.

She believed he was going to then tell his wife he wanted a divorce. As for McFarland, she  was going to move in with her parents in Bloomfield, she said. She told Techel she didn’t want to move in with another guy right then.

Under cross examination by the defense, she said Seth was okay with her not wanting to move in with anyone.

On the 25th of May, they texted each other but stopped around 11 p.m. or Midnight, McFarland said, because Lisa would be getting home from work.

“So you’re telling her tonight,” said a series of emails to Techel from McFarland.

In court, there was no answer on her phone. Responding texts had been deleted by McFarland, who said she was “scared” after she heard about Lisa’s death. Only her texts remained.

• I’m super excited.

• Yes. Are you nervous?

• I want you.

• I love you.

One message from Techel prior to the day of the shooting said “wish me luck.”

McFarland said he was going to tell his wife he wanted a divorce. The way she understood that conversation: He said that he told Lisa, and that she was mad, then sad, and that he ended up sleeping on the couch. She wanted him to be there when she got home from work to help pack her things.

The defense asked how many times they actually met. Four or five times, McFarland said. Did you ever have sex? No, she said. Skin to skin contact? No. See each other in person naked? No, she said. Did they discuss marriage? No.

So, Gardner said, it was primarily electronic messaging, and meeting in public places four or five times. She was leaving a boyfriend and talking to a new guy. She didn’t want to live with anybody just then as she wanted her space. That doesn’t sound like a romantic involvement, said Gardner.

And hadn’t Seth Techel told her that he’d be starting a new job away from Job Corps in two weeks? He had, McFarland said.  

Text Only
Local News
  • Pedersen: Spec. Ed. students should count ELDON — If you're going to publish graduation rates, stop excluding some children who are doing well. "In some ways, I think it's a little upsetting to the parents of a child who has a physical handicap or is otherwise [in special education], that th

    April 23, 2014

  • 0424 OTT Pennsylvania construction B&W photo -M -T Penn Ave. construction begins Thursday OTTUMWA — Motorists are advised that Pennsylvania Avenue will be closing for Stage 1 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction and Widening Project on Thursday. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed from just downhill from the intersection with Jefferso

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0424 OTT Lottery addiction graphic -T -L -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 3

    OTTUMWA — At first, George bought a lottery ticket once or twice a week. Nothing big. Spent $1 or $2 at a time. As the big jackpots rolled around, he’d purchase a few more tickets. No big deal, he thought. Soon, playing the lottery became his obsessi

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Interpreter bill approved in kidnapping case OTTUMWA — A filing in an Ottumwa case illustrates one of the basic tenets of the American legal system and its costs. Adem Anota is charged with one count of kidnapping. The charge is a Class A felony, among the most serious and one of only a few cri

    April 23, 2014

  • Van Buren OKs teacher pay hike KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren Community School Board ratified a master contract with its certified staff members recently. Superintendent Dr. Pam Ewell, the Van Buren Education Association and the district reached a settlement which calls for increasing

    April 23, 2014

  • 'Ride With the Clowns' bike event full of fun OTTUMWA — This bike ride is a joke. No, seriously. The 10th annual "Ride With the Clowns" spring tune-up is set for Saturday, May 3, and this fun ride is sponsored by the Ottumwa Shrine Club Clown Unit. "It draws a regular crowd," said Mark Merringer

    April 23, 2014

  • Youth playing with guns panic Fairfield residents FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Police Department received two calls Tuesday from concerned citizens reporting kids with guns in the vicinity of both elementary schools. In both incidents, the guns were actually pellet guns but looked real. According to a

    April 23, 2014

  • The most fun you ever had

    OTTUMWA — Not every child's idea will be possible — but every idea was recorded. "Kaboom" project manager Brenna Hull of the nonprofit group's San Francisco office was in Ottumwa Tuesday. She asked students at the Ottumwa school district what they'd like to see in a playground.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423 OTT Recycle center color photo 2 -T -M Where every day is Earth Day

    OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff. "We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain,

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0423 OTT lottery retailers graph -T -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 2

    OTTUMWA — We’ve all heard countless stories of lottery winners and losers. The winners, some of whom hold down multiple jobs, have modest dreams for now. One wants to buy a new home or car, another wants to pay of their debts or give to charity and e

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition