DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - A jury convicted an Iowa man Thursday of killing his pregnant wife in 2012, rejecting his claims of innocence after the third trial in the case.
Jurors found 23-year-old Seth Techel guilty of first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy. The former volunteer firefighter who once hoped for a long career in law enforcement now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors argued that Seth Techel killed 23-year-old Lisa Techel on May 26, 2012, in their trailer in Agency, a tiny town in rural southeastern Iowa. Lisa Techel, a county jail employee and reserve sheriff's deputy, was 17 weeks pregnant with their first child.
Jurors at two previous trials last year in Ottumwa and Mount Pleasant had been unable to agree on whether Techel was guilty. The third trial was moved to the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, where relatives of the defendant and victim often packed the courtroom during the nine-day proceeding. Jurors this time deliberated about four hours over two days.
Techel had told police that he was in the shower that May morning when he heard a gunshot, came out and saw his wife wounded in their bed. He is heard on the audio of 911 calls sobbing hysterically as he says "my wife's been shot" and requests an ambulance.
His lawyers had argued that was the emotion of a man who witnessed his wife dying at the hands of an unknown intruder.
Prosecutors suggested they were fake tears. They said Techel killed his wife so that he could be with a co-worker with whom he had been exchanging sexual text messages for months and for whom he had promised to leave his wife.
The texts between Techel and Rachel McFarland, who worked together at a job training center in Ottumwa, "read like a countdown to Lisa Techel's death," Prosecutor Andrew Prosser had told jurors. He said the texts in which Techel promised to leave his wife to be with McFarland the day before the slaying gave him a powerful motive to kill his high school sweetheart.