Jury begins deliberations in Techel trial
MOUNT PLEASANT (AP) — A former Iowa jail guard was the only person with reason to kill his pregnant wife, a prosecutor said Wednesday in closing arguments before the man’s murder trial went to a jury for deliberations.
A judge handed the case Wednesday to a Henry County jury of six men and six women, The Des Moines Register reported. They met briefly before being dismissed for the day, and they resumed deliberations this morning.
Seth Techel is charged with first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy in the May 2012 death of his wife, Lisa Techel. She was five months pregnant when she was found shot in the couple’s Agency trailer in southeast Iowa.
Prosecutor Andy Prosser said in closing arguments that Techel wanted to kill his wife to be with another woman. Defense attorney Steven Gardner argued that police were sloppy in collecting evidence from the crime scene, and no physical evidence ties Seth Techel to the crime.
Evidence presented at the trial included explicit emails and texts between Seth Techel and Rachel McFarland, a co-worker. Text messages show Seth Techel told McFarland he planned to break up with Lisa Techel one day before she died.
Prosser criticized Seth Techel for allegedly waiting 18 minutes after his wife was shot to call 911.
“What takes this man 18 minutes to pick up the phone and say, ‘My wife has been shot?’” he said.
Gardner told jurors there was a lack of proper evidence collected in the case. He speculated about how the murder weapon, which had no fingerprints, was in tall grass near the trailer and wasn’t found for about 24 hours.
“Were they trying to seek the truth, or were they trying to prepare a case for conviction?” Gardner said.
Gardner also said Brian Tate, the couple’s former neighbor, may have been a better suspect in the death. Gardner said Tate, who died in September 2012, suspected Seth Techel had vandalized his property. A doctor also testified that Tate later had symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Both Techels worked in law enforcement. Lisa Techel was a reserve deputy with the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office, and Seth Techel was a jailer. Seth Techel’s grandfather is a former Ottumwa mayor, and Lisa Techel’s father is a Wapello County deputy sheriff.
This is Seth Techel’s second trial. His first ended in a mistrial in March after a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. The second trial was moved from Ottumwa in Wapello County to Mount Pleasant in Henry County after defense attorneys argued about extensive media coverage and publicity surrounding the case.