The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

March 4, 2013

Firearms expert says recovered gun fired fatal shot

OTTUMWA — There was a low but audible gasp from the right side of the courtroom.

The prosecution in State v Seth Techel had just asked a firearms expert how far the killer was when they fired the single shotgun slug that killed Lisa Techel.

Seth Techel has been charged with first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy.

Division of Criminal Investigation scientist Victor Murillo testified that based on firearms discharge testing he conducted, his estimate is a range of  "one to four feet" away.

The 12 gauge shotgun he tested was the correct gun, investigation proved. In answer to prosecution questions, he said was positively “able to identify the gun as the one that... killed Lisa Techel.”

Murillo, the state’s final witness, helped counter some of the arguments raised by the defense.

For example, while he did confirm there are tests to check for gunpowder residue, those tests were not giving trustworthy results. So it’s rare for a suspects hands or clothing to be tested.  The defense suggested that checking their client would have shown that he had not fired a weapon.

An expert from another department took the stand as well. After an explanation of what DNA was, criminalist Sabrina Seehafer of DCI talked about where she did and didn’t find DNA. The prosecution also asked about Lisa’s baby.

Seehafer, a microbioligist, said DNA testing confirmed the baby carried by Lisa Techel had been fathered by Seth Techel.

Also on the stand Monday was a witness who first started his testimony Friday. Special Agent Chris Thomas of the DCI could be seen on video questioning Seth Techel the day of the shooting.

Techel’s story changed as the agent began receiving information from other investigators.

Deputy Jeff Layton warned Techel that investigators would be looking at the phone, including anything that had been deleted. Thomas: There’s nothing on your cell phone, like pictures from this girl?

Seth: No, nothing like that. Lisa said stop talking to her, I did, and that was that.

When pressed, he said, “I wasn’t cheating on Lisa, I wasn’t planning on leaving her, I was just talking to someone. Nothing ever happened.”

When pressed further: We hugged a couple of times.

Later, Agent Thomas came back after talking with a field agent. He said he had new information: Seth had “gone missing” for a while, and told a friend to lie for him about a fishing. Really, Seth Techel had been with the girl he liked, Rachel McFarland.

 Seth: Okay, I kissed her — on the cheek. And on the lips once.

So, said Agent Thomas. You aren’t helping find out what happened. I ask you what was going on with the girl, you say, “nothing.” I find out further information, and then you admit to it.

Thomas said he sometimes waits until he knows the answer to something before he asks a subject the question. He knew about the kiss, he told Techel, but if Techel wants to help find the truth, he needs to be forthcoming about other things the agent now knows.

Seth: What things do you now know?

Agent Thomas, sounding annoyed: “This isn’t a guessing game” where you reveal a little at a time based on what you find out I’m aware of.

Seth: I apologize. The thing with Rachel. Everyone is in so much pain right now, I didn’t this to get out. I’m being honest now.

“It won’t happen again,” Techel said on the video.

“What do you think should happen to whoever did this?” asked Thomas.

“Killed my wife? I should be able to kill them,” said Techel. “That, in my mind, is justice.”

Another break for a conversation with other DCI and law enforcement agents.

“Other people are telling us a different story,” said the interviewer. “...the facts of this case are telling us you are responsible for Lisa’s death.”

“No way,” said Techel.

Talk on the tape to the deputy and the agent, Techel said whether they believe him or not, whoever killed Lisa is going to pay.

“It just sucks that I’m the one who lost so much and I’m being treated like I’m the one who did this,” Seth said.

On the interrogation tape, Agent Thomas tells Seth Techel to confess.

“Why would I confess to something I didn’t do?”

You, said Thomas, shot Lisa.

“I did not shoot my wife!”

Thomas said this was a rare opportunity for Seth to have his own say, to tell the world what happened in his own words. I already said what happened, Techel said. No, you’ve made up some story about an unnamed killer. No one saw an unnamed killer coming from your house.

A tired sounding Techel said, you know what, I don’t care if you believe me. Whether it’s through you or through me, whoever did this is going to pay. I just don’t care anymore. The woman I love and our baby girl are gone.

“I know what I have is the truth,” Techel said.

In the courtroom, defense attorney Steven Gardner took issue with the agent’s next statement.

“If you don’t care,” said Thomas, “then just confess.”

“Is it a common [investigative] technique to encourage a subject to tell you something that’s not true?” asked Gardner.

“No,” said Thomas from the witness stand.

He’d already told you, said Gardner, that he had the truth. And DCI had not found a gun, any blood, any gunpowder, any lab results.

“We attempt to persuade the [suspect] to tell the truth,” Thomas said.

Later, the same agent implied that he was unaware that a test existed to determine if a subject had gunpowder on them. And though he was forthcoming with the prosecution, he used a series of denials of knowledge, including qualifiers that might make a statement true.

For example, “I don’t recall exactly where they were standing,” would be technically true if one didn’t know to the inch where fellow law enforcement officials stood. Though the reaction from the jury could not be read, Gardner appeared angry.

I want you to stop dodging my questions. I’d like answers.

On the tape, Techel appeared to have had enough. After multiple demands that he confess, he said he was done with the agent.

He was not under arrest on that day, the day of the shooting: Techel stood up, shook hands with the investigator and walked out the door.

 

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