Collaboration, surveillance video led to arrest in Petras case - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Collaboration, surveillance video led to arrest in Petras case


LA CROSE, WISCONSIN (WXOW)-- The arrest of 39-year-old Jeffrey Lepsch, in connection with the shooting deaths of Paul and A.J. Petras, came after three and a half weeks of a collaborative investigation.

That investigation included state investigators, the Wisconsin State Patrol and police departments in La Crosse and Winona. That cooperation, along with surveillance footage ultimately led police to the suspect. 

"Sometimes it took 3, 4, 5 days. We had video rolling in for almost a week and a half that we initially requested," said Captain Jason Melby, with the La Crosse Police Department. "And as we started developing some video, it told us we needed to go ask for more video from a different area -- or maybe down a different street, so the canvass for video was ongoing process that developed during the course of the investigation."

After contacting more than 150 businesses and reviewing thousands of hours of surveillance footage, investigators found a van, with a man matching witnesses' description.

"Police could observe a blue Dodge van parked at 400 Main Street," said La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer. "A male subject exits the van wearing a grey sweatshirt with a hood over his head, carrying a backpack at 1:52. He enters the business at 1:53 PM. The same subject then exits the business at 2:58 carrying 4 bags including the backpack filled with unknown items."

But among the many unanswered questions, is why May's was targeted. So far robbery appears to be the motive in this case. According to police in excess of $16,000 worth of equipment was taken from May's.

"It also appeared that one safe in the business had been opened, and another had two gunshots in the door but remained locked," Tischer said.

A search of Lepsch's home October 10 turned up 14 items with serial numbers matching items missing from May's.

"The items were located in various places throughout the home, including the safe," Tischer said.

And while the investigation continues, police say the arrest of a suspect is the result of collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the community.

"Without the partnerships with the businesses downtown and the vast amount of people that came forward with information, we wouldn't have been able to solve this crime without everybody's help," Tischer said.

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