Lepsch trial ready to start at end of July - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Lepsch trial ready to start at end of July


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—Jeffrey Lepsch, the man accused of killing Paul and A.J. Petras inside May's Photo is headed to trial.

In a final pretrial hearing Monday, the defense and prosecution hashed out final details before the July 23 start date. Jury selection is expected to take the day, with opening arguments beginning July 24. No plea offer was made to Lepsch.

Prosecutors say Lepsch still owed restitution from a 2003 conviction for theft from a hardware store distribution center, which is why he robbed the photo store. The jury will be allowed to hear about the previous conviction and the amount of money he owed.

The defense says they agree the state has a legitimate reason to introduce the acts and understand they will do it to try to establish motive. However the defense wants to stipulate the prior conviction was a property crime not a violent crime.

Lepsch is charged with two counts of First Degree Intentional Homicide, Armed Robbery, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm related to the fatal shooting and robbery of Paul and AJ Petras and May's Photo on September 15th.

During the preliminary hearing on October 25, investigators with the La Crosse Police Department testified.

According to those investigators, surveillance video from Azara, a hookah shop on Main St., shows a dark blue van pulling up in front of May's Photo the day Paul and A.J. were killed. A man in a hooded sweatshirt gets out, and enters the camera store with a backpack, just before 1 PM.

Police say video then shows the man leaving the shop just before 2 PM with the backpack, and other bags full of unknown items. The van then turns and head north on to 4th St.

About a minute after the van leaves the Azara camera's view, police say the same van appears on surveillance footage from Festival Foods on Copeland Ave.

According to police, a van matching the description of the on in the video was found at Jeffrey Lepsch's home.

Sgt. Patrick Marco, who searched Lepsch's home, testified that more than a dozen items missing from May's Photo were found during that search. The items were identified by serial numbers. Police say about $16,000 worth of equipment was taken from the store.

It appears robbery was the motive.

"Were you able to determine if he's having any money troubles at the current time?" District Attorney Tim Gruenke asked.

"There are eight or nine accounts in Jeffrey's name or his wife's name, three of those accounts are all under the amount of $1," said Lt. Matt Malott. "There is an account to Jeff's Photography that is $118 in the negative. There is a $126 account and then there is an account, a $136 account which is in the negative. As well as a $61,000 mortgage."

Police also said following Lepsch's arrest, a women came forward and said she purchased a camera from Jeffery Lepsch on October 9, the day before he was arrested.

The women heard about the arrest, contacted police and turned over the camera. Police matched a serial number on the camera lens to an item taken from May's Photo.

Police say they have video footage of Lepsch selling the camera to the woman at a Starbucks, located inside Target in Winona.

Investigators also testified about the condition of the crime scene. Paul Petras was found in the store's bathroom and the latch on the door was broken. The investigator said Paul was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the head. A.J. Petras was found in the store near an open safe. He was shot once in the head and also had signs of blunt force trauma to the head.

Lepsch remains in the La Crosse County Jail on a $2 million dollar cash bond.

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