OTTUMWA, Iowa -- Witnesses on the first day of testimony described the first minutes of their arrival at the Seth and Lisa Techel home in rural Agency.
Prosecutors went in order of arrival of emergency personnel as the state pursued a conviction of Seth Techel of Agency for murder in the first degree and involuntary termination of a human pregnancy. Therefore, the first witness called by the prosecution was Ray Schafer, a now-retired 911 dispatcher.
The prosecution played a tape for their witness and the jury.
"Is this the tape of the [911 call] you received?" asked Andrew Prosser, one of two state prosecutors assigned to the case.
Schafer confirmed that it was the call from the day Lisa Techel of Agency was shot and killed in May 2012. Lisa was pregnant at the time of her death.
On the tape, a male voice identified as Seth Techel could be heard saying, "My wife's been shot. She's not breathing!"
Sheriff's dispatch transferred the call. When a breathless-sounding Techel repeated his message, a female voice identified as an Ottumwa Regional Health Center ambulance dispatcher said, "Sir, calm down."
Techel told the dispatcher to hurry.
Schafer acknowledged he hadn't caught that the caller had said "shot." Maybe he thought the caller said "shock," he agreed. But the second time Techel called, he heard "shot" clearly.
That call came in demanding to know where the ambulance was. Techel could be heard sobbing intermittently during the call.
When the first deputy on the scene arrived, Seth was doubled over and appeared to be sobbing, Wapello County Deputy Marty Wonderlin said. He considered Seth to be a friend, someone he'd known for three years. But when asked if Seth was actually crying, Wonderlin said Seth's eyes were not wet.
"I specifically noticed there were no tears coming from his eyes," the deputy said.
When the deputy asked Seth what happened, he testified, Techel told him he was in the shower getting ready for work. He heard one shot. He grabbed a towel and went to the bedroom. He saw Lisa was not breathing. He grabbed his pistol, telling Wonderlin he ran through the house,
When Wonderlin asked why Seth did that, the deputy recalled that the defendant "said he was going to kill whoever the f*#% did it."
Steven Gardner, the defense attorney for Techel, played the entire dashboard tape from Wonderlin's patrol car from the time he received the call.
Techel could be heard sobbing at times.
At no point, Gardner told Wonderlin, did I hear you tell anyone that you didn't believe Seth was actually crying. We didn't see that until your report was filed several days later, he said. The deputy agreed.
At one point on the tape, family members of Lisa Techel arrived on the scene. Moments later, a woman's scream could be heard.
When Lisa's father, Todd Caldwell, an off-duty deputy, was seen on the dashboard camera, he told fellow law enforcement officers, "Go get him. Go get him now!"
Wonderlin testified that Caldwell may have pointed in the direction of a neighbor's house. And that the deputy may have, at some time, received information about the neighbor who lived at that house.
The defense had previously told the jury that the person referred to by Caldwell was also the person Techel suspected of possibly killing Lisa: a known dangerous and deluded man who considered the Techels to be enemies.
"Did you visually examine Seth Techel?" Gardner asked Wonderlin.
"I looked at him, yes," said the deputy.
The attorney asked if Seth had any blood on him, mud, grass, bruising or redness. He did not, Wonderlin said. The defense asked questions about which doors people used to enter the house. Most had used the west door, witnesses said. None had used the east door. They also confirmed that the east door was open.
The defense also asked about a big dog in the driveway. When you pulled up, did the dog bark? No, said Brian Bennett, a paramedic who was the first rescuer to arrive at the Techel home. But he did come over to my car. Was the dog aggressive toward you? No, sir, said Bennett. Was that dog familiar to you? No.