Lepsch doesn't testify at his trial; Both sides rest - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Lepsch doesn't testify at his trial; Both sides rest

Jeffrey Lepsch enters the courtroom Monday morning. Jeffrey Lepsch enters the courtroom Monday morning.

UPDATE: LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- The prosecution and the defense rested Monday in the case of Jeffrey Lepsch. He's the 40-year-old man accused of killing 56-year-old Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son, A.J. inside May's Photo last September.

Lepsch did not testify and the defense called only two witnesses: Lepsch's wife and his mother.

But before the defense began their case, the prosecution wrapped up with their final witnesses. Scott Faralli, an analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, examined Paul and A.J. Petras' cell phone records. The phones were never recovered, but Faralli testified records indicate the day of the homicides calls were received after 3 PM. Faralli told jurors the phones pinged off towers near in La Crosse and then near Best Buy in Onalaska, but the phones were shut off, the battery died or they were destroyed around 3:45 PM.

Next on the stand: Julie Paulson, who called police the day after Lepsch was arrested.

"Why did you call the police?" prosecutor Tim Gruenke asked.

"I'd seen a report on TV with Jeff's picture and that was the man I bought my camera from," Paulson testified.

Paulson told jurors she responded to a Craigslist posting, exchanged text messages with Lepsch and met up with him to buy the camera on October 9, one day before his arrest. Paulson turned the camera over to police and an investigator noticed the serial number on the was scratched off.

"Is there any reason, from your experience using these types of cameras, you would have to take the serial plate off to change anything out?" Gruenke asked investigator Tony DeLap.

"No," DeLap told jurors. "The only reason, in my opinion you would remove the serial plate is to try to conceal the identity of the camera or remove the serial number."

But DeLap testified that serial numbers are internally stored and embedded in pictures taken with the camera and the serial number from the camera and lens Paulson bought matched items stolen from May's.

The state's final witness was Lt. Matt Malott with the La Crosse Police Department. Malott testified earlier in the case, and Monday told jurors he examined Lepsch's Bank records. Malott testified as of October, Lepsch had one account in the negative, and two accounts under $350.

"Would the defendant have enough access to money to buy $17,000 worth of camera equipment?" Gruenke asked Malott.

"Not in any of the accounts that we located, no," Malott testified.

"[Would] the defendant at any point have enough money to buy even $2000 to buy camera equipment?" Gruenke asked.

Malott said no.

Malott also testified Lepsch owed about $53,000 for a prior conviction and had a $60,000 mortgage with $500 monthly payments.

And with that the state rested.

The defense kept their case short, calling just two witnesses.

First on the stand: Angie Lepsch, Jeff's wife of 18 years, who testified Lepsch was an excellent father to their three kids and their financial problems didn't jeopardize their marriage.

"We're constantly discussing them and how are we going to overcome it, how are we going to make things better, but our bond with the kids and with each other is so strong that we both have the commitment to want to move forward," Angie told jurors.

Angie testified she knew Jeff sold things online occasionally and didn't really notice extra camera gear around the home.

Then Jeff's mother Sharon took the stand, giving similar testimony about Jeff's character, saying he was never violent. She also stated she willingly gave Jeff and Angie money and never expected to get it back.

"I knew they wouldn't be able to pay it back, and I mean it wasn't large amounts of money," Sharon told jurors. "You know, maybe they'd ask for $200, $300 and Jeff would usually give me a check and then I would tear that check up, never cash it."

Angie and Sharon told jurors Jeff seemed normal the evening of the murders, but on cross examination both testified his first arrest for theft in 2003 came as a surprise.

"Jeff did keep some secrets from you, didn't he?" Gruenke asked.

"I don't know what you mean," Angie responded.

"Well, you said you didn't know about the thefts from Ace Hardware until he was arrested, right?" Gruenke asked.

"Right," Angie said.

"He kept property around your house?" Gruenke asked.

"Yes," Angie said.

"Stolen property?" Gruenke asked.

"Yes," Angie said.

"You didn't know about it?" Gruenke asked.

"No," Angie testified.

After less than an hour, the defense rested. Jeffrey Lepsch did not exercise his right to testify.

The judge dismissed the jury at 11 Monday morning, after the prosecution and defense asked for time to prepare closing arguments. The jury will return at 8:30 Tuesday morning for closing and three jurors will be dismissed. The remaining 12 will received jury instructions and begin deliberations.  


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - After calling only two witnesses, the defense rested its case Monday morning without calling the man on trial for two homicides, Jeffrey Lepsch.

Lepsch is on trial on two First Degree Intentional Homicide counts for the shooting deaths of Paul and AJ Petras in their downtown La Crosse store, May's Photo, in September, 2012.

While prosecutors used three full days and part of Monday morning to present its version of the homicides and the motive behind them, it took the defense slightly more than an hour to present their case.

The two witnesses called by the defense were Lepsch's wife Angie, and his mother Sharon.

Angie Lepsch testified that Jeff was a very loving, affectionate person who tried really hard to be a good husband.  She also said he was excellent with their three children, volunteering at their schools and attending sporting events.

She described the financial troubles they were having, but that it never threatened their relationship.  She'd never leave him, she said, because "our bond with our kids and each other is so strong."

When asked, Angie Lepsch told the jury Jeff had never exhibited any signs of violence or rage.  She stated there were never any guns in the house nor did she ever see Jeff with a gun.

On the day of the homicides, the children and Angie left home to spend time at Applefest with his parents.  When they met at his parent's home later that afternoon, she testified he didn't seem different-he was the same as he always was.  That observation was backed up by Sharon Lepsch when she testified.

On cross-examination, District Attorney Tim Gruenke asked if Jeffrey Lepsch had kept secrets from her starting with the earlier thefts from Ace Hardware.  Angie Lepsch responded that she was surprised when he was arrested on those charges. 

When it came to the camera equipment she saw him with, she said Jeff told her he was trying out a camera from a friend.  Police, when searching their home, found $17,000 worth of camera equipment that was traced back to having gone missing from May's Photo.

Earlier, the prosecution's final witness, La Crosse Police Lt. Matt Malott, testified he had looked at the family's bank records.  When questioned, Malott said there was no way, given the Lepsch's having only a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts, that Jeffrey Lepsch could afford to spend $17,000 on camera equipment. 

When defense attorney Vincent Rust asked if it seemed likely a thief would get full retail price for stolen merchandise, Malott thought that was a likely possibility.  When asked on follow up by DA Tim Gruenke if it was possible Lepsch could even spend $2,000 for photo equipment, Malott agreed that he couldn't even manage that much money.   

Sharon Lepsch began her testimony saying her son was a good boy who never smoked, drank, or did drugs when young.  She also said she often gave the family money for support. "I never kept track of how much I lent them because I knew they'd never be able to pay it back."

When done with her testimony, the defense rested its case with Jeffrey Lepsch not taking the witness stand.

Caught slightly off guard by the brevity of the defense's case, District Attorney Tim Gruenke asked to delay closing arguments until Tuesday morning, a move likewise asked by the defense. 

Judge Ramona Gonzalez agreed to the requests and adjourned the trial until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning for the start of closing arguments.

Once those are complete, the jury will receive its instructions from the judge, then begin deliberating the guilt or innocence of Jeffrey Lepsch.

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