Petras’ friends respond to homicide arrest - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Petras’ friends respond to homicide arrest

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - As the announcement of the arrest flashed on TV, a group of friends at Glory Days sports pub felt like they could finally breathe.

"It's a big relief knowing that's happened," said Ted Withey, a friend of the Petras family. "I'm kind of caught between emotions right now. I don't know whether to rejoice or to cry."

Withey is Paul Petras' best friend.

Almost a month ago, family found Paul and his son A.J. shot in May's Photo, a store Paul owned.

Police arrested Jeffrey Lepsch Wednesday on homicide charges for the Petras' deaths.

Lepsch served five years of probation after he was convicted of property theft back in 2004.

Withey said he has not yet seen Lepsch's face.

"I'm better off if I don't see it," Withey said. "Let's put it this way, I have a lot of friends. I had two best friends, that I considered, in the world. One in Tampa, Florida, where I retired in the VA. He died last year. (And) Paul, up here (in La Crosse), and that's happened to him. I have a lot of friends, however. But I considered him one of my very best."

Withey arranged a reward fund to help catch the person who killed Paul and A.J. He and the Petras family will now give it out as a scholarship fund.

A.J. graduated Aquinas High School.

Withey doesn't know the exact amount in the Petras Memorial scholarship fund, but said it's somewhere in the ballpark of $10 to 11 thousand.

The family hasn't decided who the money will go to yet, but they want it to go to someone in the community who otherwise wouldn't have had that opportunity.

"Paul and A.J. are up there," Withey said. "They're together and they're probably looking down and saying, ‘It's done. Thank the Lord.'"

A fundraiser to put more money in the Petras Memorial scholarship fun will be held at Glory Days on Sunday afternoon.

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