Mother of victim testifies in Lepsch trial - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Mother of victim testifies in Lepsch trial

Jeffrey Lepsch Jeffrey Lepsch

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- The jury first heard opening arguments from both sides, then the prosecution called its first witness in the Jeffrey Lepsch trial.

Lepsch is accused of killing 56-year-old Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A.J. last September, inside a downtown camera shop owned by the family.

During opening arguments the prosecution laid out its evidence, saying surveillance video shows a van matching Lepsch's at the scene and a palm print inside the store matches Lepsch.

Prosecutors say Lepsch was broke and stole more than $17,000 worth of camera equipment..

However during opening statements, defense attorney Vincent Rust said the state's evidence is bad science and Lepsch was not at May's Photo that day. Rust says Lepsch is a thief but not a killer, though he didn't elaborate on what that means.

After opening statements, the state began their case with emotional testimony from Sherri Petras, Paul's wife and A.J.'s mother.

Sherri testified she called her Paul and A.J's phones repeatedly when the didn't come home from work.

"If we didn't answer the phone, something was up," Sherri testified. "And Paul said if the kids didn't answer their phones he wouldn't pay the phone bill anymore."

So Sherri drove to May's Photo to check on her husband and son and walked in to a grizzly crime scene.

"I walked around the corner and saw A.J. on the floor," Sherri said. "I talked to him and tried to move him but I couldn't. I didn't see Paul."

Paul was farther back in the store, shot inside the bathroom.

Dane County Medical examiner, Vincent Tranchida, performed the autopsies and testified both Paul and A.J. died from a gun shot wound to the head. Dr. Tranchida says in his medical opinion Paul was shot at close range, A.J. from 3 feet or farther away

The state also called five witnesses who all say they saw someone inside May's just before 2 PM when the store closes.

"Paul was standing at the glass camera cases, he was behind the counter ad he was talking to a gentleman in a gray hooded sweatshirt and the hood was pulled up and the gentle man was wearing a backpack," testified Robert Metcalf, who taught a photo class at the store just before 2 PM.

Another witness, who was a student in that photo class, gave a similar account.

"I thought it was odd that in the heat of September they had the hood up and their sweatshirt on, just struck me as odd," said Toby Melnick.

None of the witnesses got a look at the man's face.

The day concluded with testimony from two police officers who were at the scene; they used photos to walk jurors through the crime scene.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 on Thursday.

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