Reporting Jamie Yuccas
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WCCO) — A man is in jail after the murders of a father and son inside their photo store in La Crosse, Wis., last month.
Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota, Minn., is currently in the Winona County Jail and is charged with two counts of first-degree homicide in connection with the shooting deaths of 56-year-old Paul Petras and his son, 19-year-old A.J. Petras.
Police say the two were shot and killed at May’s Photo shop on Sept. 15. Paul’s wife found the two men dead in the store at about 5 p.m. She had gone to check on them when she didn’t hear from them after an afternoon class at the store had ended at about 2 p.m. that day.
Authorities said information from nearby businesses, including witness statements and surveillance video, led them to arresting Lepsch in the case. Police say the store was open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the day of the shootings.
Police say at about 1:52 p.m., a man with a grey hooded sweatshirt carrying a backpack entered the store with just Paul and A.J. Petras inside. By 2:30 p.m., witnesses say the man left and got into a blue van. When authorities got to the scene, they found A.J. shot to death in front of a safe and Paul Petras shot to death in a bathroom with a broken lock.
Investigators also found thousands of dollars in camera equipment missing from the store. Some of the same equipment found inside Lepsch’s home Wednesday when investigators served a search warrant.
“The execution of this search warrant resulted in the recovery of 14 pieces of camera equipment all identified by serial numbers as taken from May’s on Sept. 15,” said Ronald Tischer, La Crosse police chief.
Not all the equipment stolen was found Wednesday, and police are now trying to track it down. Investigators said they originally suspected Lepsch when the van description matched one owned by his wife.
In 2003, he pleaded no contest to stealing more than $50,000 worth of tools and electronics from Ace Hardware.
Police said inside the home, they also found a gray hooded sweatshirt that matches the description of the one the suspect was wearing.
Lepsch is in the Winona County Jail and he may make a court appearance as early as Thursday. He is facing two homicide charges.
The La Crosse Tribune is quoting a neighbor who said that Lepsch is “a really nice guy, a stay-at-home dad” who has a wife and three children.”