The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 6, 2013

Prosecutors target defense theory of murder

OTTUMWA — Though the courtroom was crowded with people interested in the murder trial of Seth Techel, it may have seemed the man on trial Wednesday was Brian Tate.

Tate is the neighbor who the defense has implied — and at times even said — was the one who shot Lisa Techel, killing her and her unborn child in May 2012. The state says it was Techel.

During the second day of the defense calling witnesses, one focus seemed to be to show Tate as a suspect who was not given enough attention by police.

The prosecution used their cross-examination time to counter many of the arguments. By the time Andy Prosser and Scott Brown were done questioning Wapello County Chief Deputy Don Phillips, some jurors were smiling while listening to a tape of Tate.

While the term “odd” is typically an opinion, it could be said objectively that some of Tate’s ideas and comments seemed out of the ordinary. For a second time, he told investigators, for example, that after the 18 months he served in the U.S. Army, he continued to give himself military promotions on a fairly regular basis.

At times, he “stood guard” over his property at night.

At least one neighbor found him to be a bit spooky. The defense called Drucilla Chickering to the stand.

“I thought he was weird,” she testified. “Very odd-acting.”

She said he didn’t talk to her very often, just her husband. If she came around, he spooked and ran off.

Her husband Jack, 70, disagreed, for the most part. He said he never had any problems with Tate, who would run into him “two or three times a year.” They’d talk and Tate seemed decent enough. The prosecution asked if he used to worry that Tate was dangerous.

“No,” he said.

He thought Seth was a pretty good neighbor, though he didn’t have a lot of contact with him.

Mrs. Chickering called Seth a “wonderful neighbor.”

But around the time of Lisa Techel’s death, some unusual things happened involving Tate, both Chickerings said.

Tate came by for a visit. He asked if he had done anything to offend the couple. Or if they were angry with him.

“He mentioned several times he was schizophrenic,” recalled Mrs. Chickering, “and ‘I don’t always get along with people.’”

Cross-examination by prosecutors determined that rather than this upsetting Mrs. Chickering, the visit by Tate seemed to have softened her view toward the man, at least a little bit. He was there to be open and to try to get along.

The other issue may have involved Tate and Techel.

“I know he was having a little problem with Seth,” Mr. Chickering testified. “Tate said he was mad about [the issue].”

Though the Chickerings did not know the whole story, it appears Techel had taken offense at some of Tate’s actions, including when Tate threw a deer hide into Techel’s burn barrel. Techel  suggested some friends “mess with” the man who had offended him. They committed vandalism, which Tate reported to the sheriff’s department.

He indicated during a dashboard video from the prosecution earlier in the trial that he was disappointed with the help he got from deputies in investigating the Techels, whom he suspected of committing acts of “terror” against him. In fact, deputies, including Lisa’s father, told him the Techels wouldn’t do that. They were nice people.

Some time after Lisa had been shot, Tate called Jack Chickering. Tate said,  “If the sheriff’s department had done their job, none of this would have happened.”

Concerned, Mr. Chickering called the police.

Phillips also had a potentially distressing phone call with Tate. When Lisa was killed, Phillips and a special agent with the Division of Criminal Investigation were  assigned to go interview Tate.

Phillips called Tate on the day of the murder. He told Tate who he was and that he needed to talk to him.

Without being told what had occurred, Tate said, “I guess he’s not such a nice guy after all.”

Defense attorney Steven Gardner asked about interviewing the potential suspect.

Tate acknowledged to the agent that he was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

Gardner wanted to follow up on the prosecution revelation that the three people who might have wished the Techels harm, including Tate, all had alibis.

Gardner: Wasn’t Mr. Tate’s alibi “I was asleep?” Phillips: Correct.

When interviewing Tate, the subject told at least one lie, Gardner said. The deputy asked if the man had called the Techels terrorists. Tate denied it. Phillips said he was basically there to assist the agent. The agent was the expert for that interview, and Phillips thought it wise to follow his lead, he testified.

But you didn’t, said Gardner, tell the agent Tate had lied. Why not?

“It was no longer relevant to the case because,” said Phillips, “we knew it wasn’t him who did it.”

Gardner: “Because he said, ‘I was asleep?’

Correct, said Phillips.

This guy, who gardens all night and “stands guard” over his property slept from 8 p.m. to 11 a.m. on the morning of the murder?

That’s what he said, the deputy testified. His doctor had also recently changed his medication and wanted him to get more sleep.

 The prosecution said they wanted the jury to actually hear the interview and how it sounded.

Tate said the neighborhood was slipping. It used to be a good neighborhood until Camp Arrowhead changed hands. Now it’s a party and drug haven, he said.

Not everything he said was helpful to the prosecution. He said he knew they had a security light that had been without a bulb for quite some time. And that they didn’t have many curtains on the trailer.

He said he’d become less forgiving or kind as he grew older because people would take advantage of his kindness. But he started off very nice, he said, adding, “I was raised by nuns.”

He also said that now he didn’t believe Techel was involved in the vandalism of the Tate property.

But for the first time, Brian Tate made jurors laugh. He got along in what seemed like a grouchy but loving way with his elderly mother, who could also be heard on the tape.

He said whoever was vandalizing his property needed someone to talk some sense into them. He grudgingly admitted, his mother had told him to calm down about the deer hide. She spoke up and said she wanted him to bring any further items back to the house, where it would be thrown in her trash.

It’s unclear whether the prosecution was trying to make Tate appear more sympathetic than sinister or if such a tactic would work with jurors. What was clear was that in 30-40 minutes during the taped interview, some jurors laughed perhaps three times, especially as Tate interacted with his mom in his gruff but respectful way.

When the courtroom lights came up, some members of the jury were still smiling.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Resolution — Techel verdict reached

    DAVENPORT — The father of a slain Wapello County woman said he began to heal as soon as he heard the guilty verdict today. The jury unanimously pronounced Seth Techel, 23, guilty on charges of first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a h

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0725 OTT Riverfront design A new outlook on Ottumwa OTTUMWA — A "River Renaissance" is brewing in Wapello County. Planners working for Christian Rushing Studio from Tennessee took the public's ideas, and gave them life via maps, numerical projections and artists' renderings. "Hold onto your seats; you

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0725 OTT Sports EBF softball cover photo EBF advances to State Finals FORT DODGE — Fifth-ranked Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont had a very tough task in front of itself in a Class 2A semifinal Thursday at the state softball tournament at Rogers Park. All the Rockets had had to do was beat top-ranked Highland to reach thei

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Police to parents: check kids' online activities BLOOMFIELD — The Bloomfield police chief says the arrests of nine men in connection with sexting a teenage girl underscores the need for parents to keep an eye on their children online. Chief Shawn Armstrong said cases involving one or two people are

    July 24, 2014

  • 0725 OTT birthday rumble -T -M Age 106, still ready to rumble OTTUMWA — With the stories flowing, Celma Birdsall had the ride of her life Thursday. "She shared a lot of memories," said her chauffeur for the day, Dennis Parrish. Birdsall has built up a lot of stories over the 106 years she's been around. After h

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0725 OTT College Connections color photo -T -M IHCC eases transition to college OTTUMWA — When choosing a college that's just right for you, it is important to find one that works its hardest to ensure your success as a student. Indian Hills Community College is doing just that this week with a College Connections Workshop spons

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Techel found guilty on both counts

    DAVENPORT — Jurors have found Seth Techel guilty in the 2012 murder of his wife, Lisa, and the couple’s unborn child.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victim advocates: Helping families cope

    DAVENPORT — Family members of a slain Wapello County woman have someone to lean on — literally and figuratively — while they sit through a murder trial for the third time. Seth Techel, 23, is on trial in Scott County, Davenport. He faces charges of fi

    July 24, 2014

  • 0725 OTT Five Things logo -L -T Five things to do in southeast Iowa this weekend OTTUMWA — There's a wide variety of activities to choose from this weekend in southeast Iowa. Get out and explore the countryside, find some new books to curl up with or help raise money for some great causes. The choice is yours — pick one or attend

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Jury begins deliberations DAVENPORT — The fate of a Wapello County man accused of killing his wife is in the hands of a jury in Scott County, which began deliberations Wednesday and will continue deliberating today.The jury began deliberations about 4 p.m. Wednesday in the ca

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook