June 25, 2022

In his words

Dustin James Seley, charged with first degree murder, takes the stand in his own defense

GREENFIELD – In the Adair County Courthouse Friday, Dustin James Seley, 43, charged with first-degree murder in the death of Timothy Charles Fechter of Creston, decided to testify in his own defense.

After nine days of hiding from law enforcement, Seley was captured June 29. Under oath, Seley admitted to lying during his initial interview with DCI special agents Mark Ludwick and Marc Ridout.

“I wasn’t in my right mind. I hadn’t slept since the day it had happened. I didn’t know what to say. I was scared. Killing someone isn’t a small deal. It’s not something a person does. It’s not something I knew how to cope with,” Seley said. “I didn’t know how to cope with life, let alone coping with shooting my brother.”

When asked in court why he did it, he claims he didn’t mean to.

Events leading up to confrontation

Seley said he went bar-hopping about 10 p.m. June 19 in Uptown Creston. There, he ran in to a friend, Billy Bird, who he said was upset. He invited his friend back to his place in Kent, but neither had a car. Seley said they had a final drink, and he, Seley, consumed methamphetamine and acid around 1:45 a.m. before the bars closed. From there, they walked to Fecther’s house, who is the brother of Seley and a mutual friend of Bird’s.

At Fechter’s, Seley met Keagan Trembly, the boyfriend of Fechter’s daughter, for the first time. He described the mood of the gathering as calm before Bird became hostile with Trembly. Seley said he got between Bird and Trembly, at which time Fechter offered to drive Bird home, which he did, with Seley and Trembly in tow.

Back at Fechter’s house, Seley and Fechter consumed methamphetamine. Fechter and Trembly were preparing to illegally dispose of roofing shingles in the country. Seley irritated at the lack of work Fechter was giving him after he had left his previous employer on Fecther’s promise of more work, Seley wanted to go with Fechter, so he could talk “business.”

“As we were there, he said he was going out to get rid of these shingles,” said Seley. “Well, I had been waiting for Tim to give me another job, another task, something to do for money like he said he had all lined up.”

He said he convinced Trembly to let him go with Fechter instead.

“He (Trembly) left right away. He didn’t want to go anyway,” Seley said.

During earlier testimony, Trembly said Seley made statements indicating he was jealous of Fechter, and said Seley showed him a gun when he asked to have alone time with his brother.

Seley said he was not jealous of Fechter and never showed a gun to Trembly. However, he admitted to having one on him. When asked where he got the gun, Seley said he found it in a camper a friend had abandoned at his residence, about four months prior to shooting Fechter. But said he had been carrying it on him for five days in an attempt to sell it.

“I had $30 left to my name that night and I wanted to sell it to try to get some money in my pocket,” Seley said.

As Fechter drove Seley to a rural Adair County road where they planned to dispose of shingles, Seley said the conversation got heated. Fechter told him he didn’t have any more work and suggested he go back to his previous employer.

Once they arrived to the dumping site, Seley said he confronted Fechter about a rumor he heard, which Fechter claimed was true.

“He told me out there that Sydney was his,” said Seley said of his first child. “I was enraged. I, I, I blacked out basically. I don’t even remember if I hit him, if I shot him or not. I know that we got into a fist fight, prior, like during the same time. I hit him, I punched him and we got in to a ... fight.”

Seley said he remembered falling over the tarp they removed from the load of shingles, tripping at the same time he pulled the gun from his pocket.

When asked if he shot Fechter on purpose, Seley, crying, said “No, I didn’t.”

Seley drove away. Phone records previously shared by DCI agent Holly Witt showed Seley tried calling Fechter multiple times shortly after the incident.

“I kept calling his phone because I just wanted him to pick up. I wanted it to be like, like just a bad dream,” Seley said. “I just wanted him to pick up. I just wanted it to be over. I had no reason, no want, to kill my brother. I love him. We had our differences ... but just the shock of him telling me and saying that Sydney was his child, and everything that I gave up and everything I got rid of in my life for him, I was enraged. I was so angry I was not thinking at all.”

Seley’s history, in his words

Seley told jurors about growing up on the family farm near Nevinville with his parents, Eldon and Sandy Seley, and two of his five siblings. Seley said when he was 6 years old, his father was diagnosed with cancer. He recalled being active in some of the farm operation raising cattle and hogs with his father.

“Some of the better years of my life,” he said.

Seley said, in his formative years, his goal was to take over the farm some day. He said he loved farm work and liked how happy it made his father.

About the age of 16, Seley’s life started to unravel. His father died, mother returned to work, and his brother, Fechter, was coming to live on the farm after exiting prison. Seley said this was the first time he had met his brother. He then moved off the family farm to Creston with his mother as Fechter, Fechter’s significant other and her three children moved to the farm.

Seley said it was about that time he started making bad decisions. At 16, he dropped out of Creston High School. Shortly after he was incarcerated for two years for stealing a four-wheeler he claims Fechter framed him.

After his release, Seley returned to the farm and Fechter helped him gain employment. Seley also started dating Nicki Jones, Fechter’s step-daughter. After a month of dating, Seley said Jones told him she was pregnant with their first child, Sydney.

“I was never happier,” Seley said.

Seley said he had hoped Jones would live on the farm with him, but said she made it clear she wanted to finish high school. At the time he said farm prices were dropping and his mother wanted to sell. Selling the farm enabled him to purchase a home in Creston while Jones finished school.

“How did you feel though selling the farm?” asked Eimermann.

“Horrible. I felt like I let Eldon (his father) down,” he said.

Seley and Jones went on to have two more children before parting ways in 2007. At the time of his death in June, it was made known in court that Fechter and Jones were in a romantic relationship, for which Seley said he had no hard feelings.

When asked about their relationship growing up, Seley said he was often intimidated by Fechter. The physical and verbal abuse, and manipulation, he described was something his mother also vouched for under oath.

“He was irate most of the time. There was nothing I could ever do that was good enough for him. He liked to hit people mentally to keep you down,” Seley said. “I’ve always been fearful of him ... he could go off at any moment. You never knew.”

Seley ‘enraged’ at self

Phone records show Seley went back to the area where Fechter was killed. When asked why, he said he wasn’t there to hide Fechter’s body, but to find the gun he threw out his car window.

Seley also said he tried searching for Fechter. When asked why it was so difficult to find Fechter when he claimed to know the roads so well, Seley said he couldn’t remember because he blacked out.

“I was intoxicated, I was drunk. My acid was kicking in. I don’t know. I don’t know why it was so hard,” he said.

The day after killing his brother, Seley called his daughters to tell them what he had done as he drove north. During the nine days he hid from law enforcement, mobile phone records of Seley’s showed he went to Livermore, Iowa, where he thought of ending his life where no one could find him.

“I was so enraged at myself, I was more mad at myself for what I did that I felt like, I don’t know. I didn’t know how to feel. I never done anything like this. Nothing like this has ever happened or should it,” he said.

Defense makes a motion

At the end of the day Friday, Seley’s attorney, Jill Emermann, said prosecutors failed to make a sufficient showing a first degree murder charge should be submitted to the jury.

“We’ve now heard additional testimony from my client supporting, frankly, self defense ... manslaughter, and also had ample evidence of Mr. Fechter’s propensity for violence to support our contention that ths was an altercation that he started and is responsible for,” she said.

Eimermann requested a direct verdict from Judge Tom Murphy

“If the court is not inclined to do that, we would again, based on intoxication evidence, ask the court to direct verdict and submit only murder in the second degree,” she said.

The prosecutors resisted Eimermann’s motion.

“There is some question in my mind to whether there are sufficient facts to submit a self defense claim at all,” Assistant Attorney General Andrew Prosser said

Murphy denied Eimermann’s motion and the verdict will be decided by the jury as charged.



SARAH  SCULL

SARAH SCULL

Sarah Scull is native of San Diego, California, now living in Creston, Iowa. She joined Creston News Advertiser's editorial staff in September 2012, where she has been the recipient of three 2020 Iowa Newspaper Association awards. She now serves as associate editor, writing for Creston News Advertiser, Creston Living and Southwest Iowa AgMag.