The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 21, 2013

10:45 a.m. trial update: Opening statements underway

OTTUMWA — Opening arguments Thursday morning marked the start of Seth Techel's trial on charges of murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy.

Techel is accused of shooting his wife, Lisa, in May 2012. She was four months pregnant at the time. The courtroom was crowded, but not packed. Most observers sat on the side used by Lisa Techel's family. Fewer were on the side with Seth Techel's family.

Techel watched prosecutor Andy Prosser as he read the charges to jurors and began his opening arguments, but showed little reaction. Prosser said Techel wanted out of his marriage, but did not want to divorce his wife for fear of alienating her father, a sheriff's deputy, and hurting his career prospects.

According to Prosser, Techel hid his relationship with another woman, which the defense says was not an affair. He used secret phones and meetings. He said he would tell Lisa he wanted out. The day before Lisa died, he said he had in a text: "She got mad, then sad, then I slept on a couch. All she wants from me is for me to be there tonight when she packs."

Lisa was killed by a shotgun blast. Prosser said Techel made no effort to save her after firing. He mocked Techel's pet name of "Mr. Resuscitator," given to him by the woman with whom he had the relationship.

"The defendant lifted not one finger to save the life of his dying wife and child, while he waited 18 minutes to call police," he said.

As Prosser spoke, his phone rang. A timer had gone off. Prosser turned it off, paused and looked at the jury. The timer, he said, was set for 18 minutes.

"I have been talking as long as it took for Seth Techel to call 9-1-1," he said.

Prosser said Techel went to great lengths to continue the affair, hide his communications, and then hide his involvement in his wife's murder. He said the defense claim that an "unknown homicidal maniac," picked the Techel house at random, found a weapon inside and killed Lisa is ridiculous.

Defense attorney Steven Gardner attacked the prosecution's case during his opening statement. He spoke slowly and deliberately, telling jurors the state's opening focused on emotionally loaded content, not the facts of the case.

In fact, said Gardner, prosecutors spent 35 minutes talking about love, lust and jealousy, compared to only "12 minutes talking about what they claim to be the facts."

Gardner called the prosecution's 18-minute time frame "pure speculation." Techel didn't look at a clock when he found his wife's body, so he estimated when he found her.

So prosecutors arrived at 18 minutes "solely based on the outer edges of when Seth Techel said."

Gardner played part of the 9-1-1 call from the Techel home. Techel told the operator, "I need an ambulance, my wife's been shot."

Gardner promised jurors will hear the full call and asked them to consider whether Techel, during that call, sounds like someone who has just committed a cold-blooded murder.

Evidence will show Lisa Techel's death was almost immediate. "You will hear from the state medical examiner that Lisa would have died, probably, in a matter of seconds," Gardner said.

Both sides spent part of their opening statements talking about Techel's first trip back to the home, made with his father, Doug Techel. (Disclosure: Doug Techel is the Courier's circulation director.) Prosecutors say Seth Techel made a beeline for where the shotgun was found in the yard, evidence he wanted to see whether it was found. The defense says Techel was drawn to the site by paint on a tree, which was used by investigators to mark locatons.

The jury panel has nine men and six women. That's more than the 12-member jury, but alternates are not told who they are until the end of testimony, so that they are as focused on the case as the jurors.

Before jurors even got to the courtroom, they were the subject of discussions between the attorneys and the judge. A strong winter storm is forecast to move into the area this afternoon and all sides were concerned about how it might impact the trial.

Brown said it was in everyone's best interests to not have the jurors distracted.

"The last thing we want the jury worrying about is the storm, children issues," he said.

Brown had spoken with the defense and that both felt it would be a good idea to end Thursday's session early and start Friday's late. Wilson agreed.

"I don't like doing that ... but I don't want to put anyone's safety at risk," he said.

Wilson informed jurors of the plans when they entered later.

"I suspect that each of you may have been thinking about that," Wilson said as a couple jurors nodded.

The court plans to resume the trial Friday afternoon.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Overcome testing fear, get a good job OTTUMWA — It's not who you know, it's what you know. That's what City leaders say about getting a good paying job in Ottumwa. "It seems like in the last year we've had a real reduction in the number of individuals who've applied," said Joni Keith, hu

    July 25, 2014

  • Water Pollution Control Facility gets OK to upgrade OTTUMWA — An emergency Ottumwa City Council meeting resulted in spending $140,583 for the Water Pollution Control Facility. Friday afternoon, council members listened intently as Ottumwa Water Pollution Control Facility Superintendent Kam Reeves told

    July 25, 2014

  • Quincy Ave. project starts Aug. 4 OTTUMWA — Updates on the Quincy Avenue project was given to residents and businesses residing between Albia Road and Hwy. 34 on Thursday night at Ottumwa City Hall. About a dozen people attended the meeting where City Engineer Dan Sturm gave an updat

    July 25, 2014

  • Silence continues on fatal shooting OTTUMWA — Law enforcement is exercising its right to remain silent about a shooting death that occurred south of town this week. The Wapello County Sheriff's Office, which had responded to the shooting, said most information on the case would now com

    July 25, 2014

  • 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

  • 0726 OTT cedar creek Gone in a flash

    BLOOMFIELD — Bob Parker got about as close to lightning as you can Friday morning, and came out of it without injury. A line of thunderstorms started moving through southeast Iowa in the early morning hours. Parker was heading to work at about 7 a.m.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0726 OTT Garden Bites III Color Photo -T Garden Bites sees growth BLOOMFIELD — Nearly one month ago, families gathered at Pioneer Ridge Nature Center to plant various vegetables to harvest and eat on Thursday at Garden Bites. The program allows families to get their hands a bit dirty at Pioneer Ridge and plant food

    July 25, 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

  • 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

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook