The Ottumwa Courier

March 1, 2013

Prosecution, defense draw different conclusions from interviews

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Two interviews with Seth Techel seemed, in a way, to verify what both the prosecution and defense have been saying all along. But each side seemed to find important details in the nearly six hours of combined audio and video tapes of interrogations.

Deputy Jeff Layton spoke with Techel first, in his squad car at the scene of Lisa Techel’s murder. Upon cross examining the deputy Friday in court, defense attorney Steven Gardner asked about a point of quiet contention between defense and prosecution. In their opening, prosecutors said one of the things that doesn’t make sense is that Seth heard a gunshot, but no barking resulting from the presence of an intruder.

The defense may be trying to say the reason Techel didn't hear an intruder was because the dogs don’t bark a lot. One scene on tape showed the chocolate lab, Remington.

Police, parents, DCI agents, lab techs, all came and went without Remington barking. That had been shown already. But then, prosecutors countered by bringing in a witness who kept his coon hound puppy at the Techel home. Deputy Marty Wonderlin testified that was one loud puppy who “went nuts” during his and Layton’s search for intruders on the Techel property.

So it seemed like the state showed there should have been barking heard after all.

Today, Gardner countered the counter — he asked something more specific.

Gardner: At what point during the perimeter search did the puppy start barking?

Deputy: When we shined our lights into the shed where the puppy lived.

Defense: No barking until you shined your flashlights inside the shed?

Deputy: That’s correct.

The prosecution pointed out a potentially damaging omission, however, during an interview with a Division of Criminal Investigations special agent.

Chris Thomas of the DCI asked Seth Techel if any guns were missing from the house. Techel said he didn’t know. Agent Thomas asked him to “jot down” a list of the guns in the house so investigators could make sure none were missing.

Prosecutor Andy Prosser asked Thomas if Techel complied. He did, said Thomas. And did Seth list the weapon later found in the grass, the shotgun that turned out to be the murder weapon?

No, said Thomas, he did not.

On tape, Thomas asks Techel not to get mad at the agent, but “because of the nature of our goal, I have to ask some [difficult] questions. Are there any extra- marital-type things going on?”

Seth said  “no,” not really. Just a coworker I texted once in a while. Was it sexting? No, no. Nothing like that. Just hi, how ya’ doin’, how was work.

Her name?

“Rachel,” said Techel.

Are you sure the baby is yours? Thomas asked. Could his wife have been unfaithful?

“Lisa’s not like that,” Seth said.

The beginning of the interview appeared to take a toll on Seth’s family, present in the courtroom. Though calm and conversational at some points during the five-hour interview, he sobbed about the loss of his wife and child.

“Why couldn't I protect the woman I love,” he cried, “the woman I married? Why!”

He was just 10 feet away, he said, and couldn’t protect them. What kind of jackass comes in someone’s house and shoots them? Later, he lamented his failure to resuscitate Lisa.

When he returned from a quick search for an intruder, he said, he put his handgun somewhere, perhaps the night stand, and prepared to perform CPR..

Looking down at the lifeless body of his wife, he panicked, he told the interviewer.

"I froze,” he cried. “I couldn't save my own wife!"

 

Tweets by @CourierMark