The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 1, 2013

Videos spotlight Techel neighbor

OTTUMWA — Jurors could see for themselves encounters between law enforcement and a “concerning” man who lived next to the Techels.

The murder trial of Seth Techel continued Friday morning, when prosecutors played a dashboard video showing Wapello County sheriff's deputies and Brian Tate.

The defense has suggested someone entered the Techel home and shot Lisa; prosecutors scoffed at the unknown "homicidal maniac" theory.

By doing so, they may have opened the door, said the defense, to giving that neighbor a name, implying Tate was the “crazy” killer. Steven Gardner, Techel’s attorney, wants to talk about Tate’s mental state. The prosecution doesn’t want them to do that, because then both sides are bringing in psychiatrists or medical records to determine whether Tate was a perfectly pleasant man, a grumpy old guy, a deranged maniac or something else.

That question, first raised after 4 p.m. the previous day, might have explained the reason defense and prosecutors were in the judge’s office Friday morning.

Some things the defense wanted to ask about was how Mr. Tate was committed to a mental hospital — but it happened after Lisa’s death, the prosecution said. That, after being ordered to give his fingerprints in the case, the defense said (out of earshot of the jury) that Mr. Tate committed suicide. That wasn’t proven, the prosecution said. And after he died, rather than getting his fingerprints, the defense said, law enforcement officials had the body cremated.

When they came out of chambers at 9:45 a.m., lawyers appeared to be getting along. There was no further talk of prosecutorial misconduct like there had been by the defense one day earlier.

“Any further questions,” Judge Daniel Wilson asked the defense.

“No, your honor,” answered Gardner.

The video tapes showed deputies talking with an agitated Mr. Tate. The first tape had some unusual comments from Tate, like the fact that he kept promoting himself in the Army, he called vandalism “terrorism” and was quite talkative. But he also listened to what the deputy had to say. There was no swearing, no arm waving, no direct threats, no muttering, no shouting or crying, no overly-rapid speech.  

Todd Caldwell, a deputy and Lisa Techel's father, told Tate on two occasions that the neighbors Tate suspected of throwing rocks and feces wouldn’t do that. They were good people.

He testified Thursday he believed Tate was trying to stir up trouble. He told deputies to use caution when dealing with him. And he told Seth to stay out of the guy’s way. Caldwell had an acquaintance in Keokuk County, a deputy who’d been shot to death fairly recently.

That deputy had responded to the home of an armed man whose family had requested a judge have him committed to a mental hospital. The judge refused.

Caldwell considered Tate to be making things up, mentally disturbed — and armed. During a second meeting, Tate stormed off, angry or frustrated.

Testimony showed Techel had been involved in the vandalism.

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