Lepsch sentenced to life without possibility of parole - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Lepsch sentenced to life without possibility of parole

Judge Ramona Gonzalez holds up letters submitted by Petras family members during sentencing Judge Ramona Gonzalez holds up letters submitted by Petras family members during sentencing

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Jeffrey Lepsch will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Paul and A.J. Petras at May's Photo in downtown La Crosse, a shop Paul owned. 

A jury convicted the 40-year-old Lepsch in July. The first degree intentional homicide conviction carries a mandatory life prison sentence. The only option the judge has is whether to set a parole date and Judge Ramona Gonzalez chose to make sure Lepsch will say in prison and said it was an easy call to make.

At the sentencing Sherri Petras, Paul's wife, was the only one to speak.

"I feel bad for his kids, but it was his decision," Sherri said. "He shouldn't have taken our family away from us. I do not want him to have any chance for parole."

Judge Gonzalez received similar requests from dozens of friends and family members of the victims in letters because most of them are still too emotional to speak about their loss.

"The loss extends beyond this family. It feels like photography has died in La Crosse," one letter from a May's Photo Customer said.

A.J.'s young cousins even drew pictures for the judge.

"In the midst of all the tears I shed reading these, I was pleased to have something to look at toward the future," Judge Gonzalez said of the artwork.

Allison Petras, Paul's daughter and A.J.'s sister, wrote this isn't something that gets better with time.

"I will never have a father/daughter dance or a dad to walk me down the aisle at my wedding," Allison wrote. "I won't have a brother, a best friend to grow old with, who would have been there for me no matter what. Family is number one to me. We had a small one to begin with and now it has shrunk even more."

And A.J.'s girlfriend ,Alycia Weigel told the judge she's felt hopeless, unable to do anything but cry for months after losing the boyfriend she thought she would have years with.

"A.J. was the most caring and generous person I have ever known," Alycia wrote. "And it kills me I'll never get to tell him I love him. We were inseparable and I talked about how our lives were better than any dream because we had found each other. We believed we were soul-mates and because of this crime, we will never get to have a future."

Lepsch sat motionless throughout the sentencing and declined to speak. Aside from his attorney no one spoke or wrote letters on his behalf. His attorney asked for parole for the sake of Lepsch's wife and three kids, but Judge Gonzalez denied that request.

"You have demonstrated you are a danger to society, that you have no qualms about lying to the people you love, and that you have no qualms about taking a life," Judge Gonzalez said to Lepsch. "To say that is cold blooded is, in my mind, an understatement."

Lepsch's attorney, Vincent Rust, says it's safe to assume they will appeal the conviction.

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