Pella Chronicle

February 27, 2013

Techel jury views photos, murder weapon


Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Seth Techel's trial on charges of murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy resumed Wednesday after a one-day weather delay.

The trial has twice been interrupted by snowstorms. Judge Daniel Wilson thanked jurors for putting up with the trial's "somewhat erratic schedule," as the day opened.

The day involved some of the most dramatic evidence yet, as prosecutors brought the shotgun they say Techel used to kill his wife into the courtroom and entered a number of crime scene photos into evidence.

Prosecutors walked criminalist Michael Halverson through crime scene photos taken at the Techel home. Halverson is an investigator with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

The photos included the bedroom and Lisa Techel's body. Her family members sobbed quietly as prosecutors showed the photos.

The photos also showed an access panel behind the bed's headboard that led to the shower in the bathroom. The location is important for both sides. Techel says he was in the shower when Lisa was shot. That was important to prosecutor Andy Prosser.

"Literally if a person was in the shower they would be standing in this position on the other side of the wall ... less than the width of the bed," Prosser said.

Processing the scene took more than a day. Halverson said the search of the vehicles, in which the Tracfone used by Techel to contact McFarland was found, was done on the second day.

That second day also led to discovery of the shotgun used to kill Lisa. Halverson said investigators had not found the gun used in the trailer, nor did they find any shell casings inside.

"We were looking for the gun. We knew she had been shot," he said.

A pair of reserve deputies found the shotgun and summoned others. Photos show the tree by which the gun was found had crime scene attached and a gray "X" painted on it. The gun was in tall grass near the tree. One spent round was in the chamber, while four live rounds were in the magazine.

Prosser brought the gun into court for Halverson to identify and entered it as evidence. Halverson identified it for jurors, along with a single, spent shotgun shell recovered from the gun.

The defense has yet to cross examine Halverson.

Michael Schakel, who met both Techel and Rachel McFarland, the woman with whom Techel has been romantically linked, through his job as a security officer at the Ottumwa Job Corps site, was the day's first witness.

According to Schakel, McFarland did not work the same shifts as he and Techel. He noticed Techel had more than one cell phone with him and asked about it. Techel eventually admitted to using the cell phone to communicate with McFarland.

Techel showed Schakel text messages and photos from the cell phone, including one in which McFarland was wearing a swimsuit. Techel said he had feelings for McFarland.

While Schakel did not know Lisa Techel, Seth's wife, he did overhear an argument via cell phone between them. Afterwards, Techel told Schakel it would be "easier if she was in a car wreck and died."

When asked why he didn't get a divorce, Schakel said Techel didn't want to pay child support or risk hurting his relationship with her father.

Defense attorney Steven Gardner questioned how authoritative Schakel's assessment of Techel's relationship with McFarland could be. Schakel said under cross examination he had not met McFarland until September of last year.

It's an important point for the defense, which has argued Techel's relationship with McFarland never progressed to the point where it could be called an affair.

"You never observed Rachel McFarland with Seth Techel?" Gardner asked

"No." Schakel replied.

 

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