- Associated Press - Friday, July 25, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The case against a volunteer firefighter convicted of killing his pregnant wife was a “slam dunk” even if parts of the investigation were flawed, the jury foreman said Friday.

The evidence proved “there was just no way” that anybody but Seth Techel could have shot Lisa Techel while she was sleeping in their rural southeastern Iowa trailer, foreman Thom Nelson told The Associated Press.

“It was pretty overwhelming for most of us,” said Nelson, a 65-year-old government contracting official.

On Thursday, the Scott County jury found Seth Techel guilty of first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy in the May 26, 2012, death of his wife of seven months. Two previous attempts to convict him of killing Lisa, a 23-year-old county jail employee who was 17 weeks pregnant, ended in hung juries.

Nelson said 10 jurors agreed Techel was guilty at the start of the four-hour deliberation, and an 11th came around quickly. The holdout was a woman who questioned whether Brian Tate, a mentally ill neighbor, could have been the killer, but jurors told her they didn’t hear any evidence about Tate, Nelson said. The woman eventually became convinced that evidence in the trailer implicated Techel, Nelson said.

In previous trials, Techel’s lawyer Steve Gardner argued Tate was the killer. But defense attorney Gerald Feuerhelm said Friday he and attorney Roger Owens - who were appointed to represent Techel after Gardner resigned - shifted the focus away from Tate. He said the defense opted not to “try to solve the case” but to attack investigators for focusing on their client and ignoring other possibilities.

Nelson and juror Pamela Peckenschneider described stress and sleepless nights as they wrestled with a murder that devastated two well-known Ottumwa families.

“To look out there and see both sides crying, that’s just heartbreaking,” Peckenschneider said. “It was very sad, but we did the right thing.”

Jurors rejected Techel’s claim that he was in the shower when he heard a gunshot from an unknown intruder. The murder weapon - a shotgun left behind by a former roommate of the Techels - was “very important” in reaching the conclusion that Techel was the killer, Nelson said.

No one else could have come into the dark, cluttered trailer, found the gun and killed her, Nelson said.

Feuerhelm had argued to jurors that the investigation was “flat-out incompetent,” noting investigators never tested Techel or his clothes for gunshot residue, examined Lisa’s cellphone found near her body or excluded possible suspects.

After Lisa’s phone was finally examined, defense lawyers learned this month that Lisa had ended a long affair with Jason Tinnes, a Washington County Jail coworker who was concerned he may have been the father.

Tinnes testified he lied to an investigator when he denied the affair in June 2012, but that he had nothing to do with the killing. Tinnes’ wife testified that her husband was home when Lisa was killed.

Nelson said jurors’ “jaws dropped open” when they heard about the affair, but they became convinced Tinnes wasn’t the killer.

Nelson said jurors weren’t pleased with some investigative work by the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office and the Division of Criminal Investigation. He said gunshot residue testing should have been done and video of the crime scene “looked like a 10-year-old kid’s work.”

“A lot of things looked pretty amateurish” but ultimately weren’t determining factors, he said.

The defense calculated that such flaws would be enough to create reasonable doubt.

“I wish they would have held the state’s feet to the fire a little harder,” Feuerhelm said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide