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Psychiatrist testifies in Iowa slaying trial

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 11:31 a.m. CST

MOUNT PLEASANT (AP) — A psychiatrist who testified Tuesday in the murder trial of a former Iowa jail guard accused of killing his wife responded to questions about the mental health of the couple’s former neighbor.

Dr. James Trahan of the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames said Brian Tate was mentally ill around the time of his death in September 2012, the Ottumwa Courier reported.

Tate lived near Seth and Lisa Techel. Seth Techel is charged with first-degree murder and nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy in the May 2012 death of his wife and their unborn child. Defense attorneys say Tate is a better suspect in the case, but prosecutors say there’s no evidence to that argument.

Trahan said he conducted an assessment on Tate after he was admitted to the center in the days before his Sept. 30, 2012, death. Trahan said Tate was “a rather disheveled man,” who paced back and forth and barely spoke when he first arrived on Sept. 13. He said Tate had many symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Prosecutors asked Trahan what he could say about Tate’s mental health at the time of Lisa Techel’s death in May.

“Nothing at all,” he said, and noted that Tate’s mental state could have varied day to day, as well as month to month.

Other testimony Tuesday included Seth Techel’s parents. Doug Techel said he asked his son on the day of Lisa Techel’s death whether he needed legal help.

“I asked (Seth) if we should get a lawyer,” Techel said. “He said no. He said he had nothing to hide.”

Earlier, a forensics expert was asked about gunshot residue testing. John C. Cayton from the Access Forensics Laboratory in Cameron, Mo., said he believed such testing should have been conducted in this case. But when asked by the prosecution if such evidence would have determined where Techel was at the time of his wife’s death, he said no.

At one point, prosecutor Andy Prosser and defense attorney Steven Gardner met privately with Judge Daniel Wilson. Prosecutors wanted to ensure that testimony about Tate’s medical records would be kept private because the files are confidential and have not been released by his estate. Gardner said continuing in private would violate Seth Techel’s right to a public trial.

Prosecutors and the defense met with Wilson for more than an hour in the judge’s chambers to discuss the medical records. The jury was then brought back and the trial resumed.