Courier Staff Writer
MT. PLEASANT — After two days of jury selection, Seth Techel's retrial on charges of murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy began Wednesday.
Techel is accused of killing his wife, Lisa, in 2012 at the trailer the couple shared near Agency. His first trial ended with a hung jury. The retrial is taking place in Mt. Pleasant, about an hour east of Ottumwa.
Prosecutors say Techel was the only person with the opportunity and motive to kill Lisa. The defense says investigators failed to adequately pursue other leads, including a neighbor with whom Techel had quarreled.
Scott Brown offered the prosecution's opening arguments, telling jurors Seth Techel is the only reasonable suspect and that the evidence will show he killed his wife.
“Who murdered Lisa Techel? The evidence in this case will show that it was Seth Techel,” he said.
Brown walked jurors through the events leading up to Lisa's death. He said the only real question in dispute is who killed her. Both sides say she was shot and died as a result, two of the elements of first degree murder.
Only Seth and Lisa were inside the trailer when Lisa was killed, Brown told jurors. “Don't ignore the obvious.” He spent considerable time focusing on the 18 minutes prosecutors say passed between when Lisa was shot and Seth called for help.
Brown said that amount of time isn't consistent with someone who is panicked by his wife being shot.
“He's in a hurry. But 18 minutes? What else was he doing in those 18 minutes? Getting rid of the gun?” Brown said.
Defense attorney Steven Gardner sought to refute Brown's opening, saying the case is anything but simple. It will take three to four weeks to get through, he said, which means it are a lot of pieces evidence and complex issues to deal with.
Gardner told jurors the defense has facts on its side while prosecutors will rely on innuendo and suggestions.
“For whatever reason the state did not say anything in their opening statement about fact,” he said.
Gardner also sought to shift the jury's attention to Brian Tate, a neighbor whom the defense says is a more likely suspect for Lisa's death. Tate was “seriously mentally ill,” and had a running dispute with Seth Techel over property.
The 18-minute timeline also came in for defense criticism. Gardner said that only works if Techel shot Lisa almost as soon as the alarm went off. The defense contends Techel let the dog out and had been in the shower for about five minutes when he heard the gunshot. That reduces the amount of time between the alarm and the 911 call.
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