Sheriff faces questions about jailer’s affair
IOWA CITY (AP) — An Iowa sheriff is expected to testify Tuesday at the trial of a man charged with killing his pregnant wife, as the defense questions whether investigators tried to cover up the victim’s affair with a county jailer.
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said he was deposed for a second time Monday by attorneys for Seth Techel, who is on trial in the May 2012 shooting death of his wife, Lisa Techel. Dunbar said he has been subpoenaed to testify Tuesday morning.
Prosecutors say Techel shot his wife while she slept on May 26, 2012, in the trailer they shared in Agency, in rural southeastern Iowa. She was roughly 17 weeks pregnant at the time with a girl.
Techel, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy. He has pleaded not guilty and insists he was in the shower when the killing happened. His defense argues that investigators rushed to judgment after learning Techel had been sending sexual text messages with another woman and ignored other potential leads.
The trial, which started last week in Davenport, is the third for Techel after two earlier ones ended with hung juries. His new defense team said last week that it had obtained potentially exculpatory information that hadn’t been turned over by investigators: that Lisa Techel, 23, was having an affair with Jason Tinnes, a fellow jailer at the Washington County Jail in Washington, Iowa.
Seth Techel’s attorneys said they started investigating the potential relationship after examining text messages and phone calls from his wife’s phone, which investigators had not done. In a deposition earlier this month, Tinnes admitted having a roughly seven-month sexual affair with Lisa Techel. Tinnes, 31, is a married father of four. The affair ended weeks before Lisa’s death, and the two had discussed the possibility that Tinnes was the father, which turned out not to be the case, the defense says.
Dunbar said in an earlier deposition this month that his office had been asked by the Wapello County Sheriff’s Department to interview Tinnes but that he couldn’t recall details, Techel attorney Roger Owens said last week. Dunbar’s deputy, Chad Ellis, was sent to speak with Tinnes, who denied having any sexual relationship and said they were friends, Owens said, adding that no one made a report documenting why Tinnes was questioned or what was said.
Dunbar said Monday he didn’t want to discuss the matter before his testimony but that Tinnes remained an employee of the jail. Ellis declined comment, and a phone number for Tinnes in Washington, Iowa, was disconnected.
Techel’s attorneys have asked Judge Daniel Wilson to dismiss the case, saying the evidence of an affair was improperly suppressed. They noted that because Lisa Techel’s father, Todd Caldwell, is a Wapello County sheriff’s deputy, “it even raises the specter of a deliberate obfuscation of justice.”
But prosecutor Andrew Prosser said that Seth Techel’s right to the information has not been violated given that he hasn’t been convicted, and that he rejects “the premise that the information is exculpatory.” He also said the affair could have been a motive for Techel to kill his wife. Wilson hasn’t ruled on the motion.