LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Jeffrey Lepsch will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Paul and A.J. Petras at their family owned downtown photo store.
Before handing down the sentence Tuesday, Lepsch's attorney asked Judge Ramona Gonzalez to set a parole date, emphasizing that prior to the killings, Lepsch did not have a violent criminal history. But Judge Gonzalez took issue with that argument, saying that just because a crime isn't violent doesn't mean it's not a serious offense.
In 2003 Lepsch was ordered to pay in restitution and adhere to conditions of parole, after he was convicted of stealing more than $60,000 worth of items from his employer.
"The property crime that Mr. Lepsch is convicted of required that over a period of years he lied," Judge Gonzalez said. "He lied to his employers, he lied to his family and he lied to everyone who purchased an item from him he'd taken from Ace. To me, that demonstrates a total lack of moral character."
And Judge Gonzalez says Lepsch failed to comply and that this case demonstrates that even none violent crimes need to be taken seriously.
"Because of how we deal with property crime and because we don't have enough prison space to put everybody for a property crime, many times property crimes are seen as just that, not dangerous to the community as a whole and so individuals are put on community supervision, the hope being they'll be able to be rehabilitated," Judge Gonzalez said.
District Attorney Tim Gruenke says it's not that property crimes themselves need tougher sentences, but instead, the character of the offender and the severity of the offense need to be closely examined to determine the most effective punishment and rehabilitation.
"Putting someone in jail doesn't necessarily stop the behavior, and for a property crime they're not going to be locked up forever," Gruenke said. "So what lead them to this? Is there something we need to work on to keep them to stop them from doing this again. That's usually the goal with the property crimes. Also, if people are locked up, they're not working, they're not having a job, they're not getting paid, so that's another factor judges have to consider."
Gonzalez said during Lepsch's sentencing, she'll take this case in to consideration when others come before her.
"I don't know whether this experience will change how we view property crimes in the future, but I will tell you Mr. Lepsch, for me, somehow that is not going to have the same meaning after my presiding over this case."
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