ALBIA, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man convicted of killing his pregnant wife was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after the victim's relatives called him a coward who betrayed and devastated their family.
Relatives of Lisa Techel took turns tearfully confronting Seth Techel during a hearing at the Monroe County Courthouse in Albia, calling the 23-year-old former volunteer firefighter a cold-blooded killer who has put them through hell.
They said Seth Techel, once a member of their tight-knit family, selfishly killed their beloved daughter and sister while she slept in May 2012. They said that they have suffered nightmares, taken stress medicine and struggled to trust anyone in the years since.
Lisa Techel's father, Todd Caldwell, described the close relationship he had with his daughter, noting she had called him her soul mate in a letter to him before she was killed.
"You know what you took from me," Caldwell said, pointing his finger across the courtroom at Seth Techel.
Caldwell later added: "Seth is a cold-hearted killer. I would call him an animal, but an animal only kills out of necessity. Seth killed out of convenience."
A jury in July found Seth Techel guilty of killing his 23-year-old wife while she slept in their trailer in Agency, a small town in southeastern Iowa. She was four months pregnant with the couple's first child, a girl they had agreed to name Zoey.
Prosecutors said Seth Techel used a friend's shotgun to kill his wife of seven months so that he could start a relationship with a co-worker. They say he took a shower to wash off evidence and then made 911 calls claiming an unknown intruder killed her while he was in the shower.
Seth Techel showed no emotion as his former in-laws described their heartbreak and anger. Techel, who has maintained his innocence and will appeal his conviction, declined to make a statement in court.
The guilty verdict came after the third trial in the case, after two previous trials that ended in hung juries.
Lisa Techel's relatives said the length of the court proceedings added to their anguish.
Judge Daniel Wilson sentenced Techel to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder in Iowa. He also sentenced Techel to 25 years in prison for nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy.
Wilson said the impact of the crimes was horrific. He noted the closeness and trust that had existed between Seth's and Lisa's families, who are both well known in the Ottumwa area.
"Your wife, Lisa, is dead. Your unborn child never had the opportunity to live. You are likely to spend the rest of your life in prison," he said. "It's unbelievable and none of it was necessary."
Lisa's sister, Presley Caldwell, recalled rushing to the couple's trailer on the morning her sister was killed and believing Seth's claim that someone else was responsible. She recalled how Seth told her days later at the visitation that he would always be her brother and love her.
"I'm no longer your sister, and I no longer love you," she told him.
Lisa's mother, Tracy Caldwell, said her daughter's goal was to become an investigator with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, where she had interned.
"She wanted to help people, to protect people, and little did any of us know that she was the one who needed protection," she said.
She told Seth that she had no doubts that he made sure Lisa was sleeping before he fired the shot.
"You and I both know that Lisa would have fought back," she said, drawing a round of applause from relatives in the courtroom.