By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The retrial of a man accused of killing his wife and unborn child will begin Monday in the town of Mt. Pleasant.
A Wapello County jury found itself deadlocked in March after a month-long trial of Seth Techel. Techel is charged with first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy in the shooting death of his wife, Lisa Caldwell Techel, at their rural Agency home in May 2012.
Investigators say Lisa was shot once with a 12-gauge shotgun at close range.
The defendant had told investigators he was in the shower when he heard a loud bang. He ran to see that his wife had been shot, he grabbed a pistol and attempted to pursue whoever had done the shooting.
In the first trial, the defense presented their theory about how a mentally disturbed neighbor harboring resentment toward the Techels may have shot Lisa.
Prosecutors at the time of the first trial said Techel wanted his wife out of the way so he could pursue an intimate relationship with a young woman he worked with.
Monday’s court proceedings are expected to revolve around jury selection.
Iowa prosecutor Andy Prosser suggested Mt. Pleasant — seat of Henry County — as the venue for the retrial as prosecution’s “No. 1 pick.” The city is about an hour east of Ottumwa.
“It’s the closest county that takes care of most of the issues we have,” Prosser said. “It’s also close enough that it won’t inconvenience most of the witnesses and families as much as other, more distant potential counties within the district ... Publicity has not been widespread in any of the counties under consideration — certainly nothing like is in the case in Ottumwa.”
Defense attorneys Steven Gardner and Robert Box felt the choice was too close. Both teams agreed, however, that intense media coverage of the first trial would not allow for Techel to get a fair trial in Wapello County.
The jury will have to reach a unanimous decision on the verdict in order for Techel to be found guilty or not guilty.
Judge Daniel Wilson will continue to preside over the case.
In May, Techel’s team requested that the judge be removed from the trial for making wrong and unfair decisions during the first trial, which showed bias against the defendant.
After a hearing, the motion was denied.
Techel remains in custody on $750,000 cash-only bail. A conviction on the charges carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Reporter Mark Newman will use Twitter to share trial updates from Mt. Pleasant: @CourierMark