An arrest in the case has been a long time coming for family and friends of the Petras family.
“I had to come,” said Ted Withey, Paul Petras’ best friend. “My best friend was shot and killed.”
Withey said both Paul and A.J. Petras were very well-loved members of the La Crosse community.
“He was just an all around really good guy,” said Withey. He did not deserve something like this.”
Nearly a month has passed since Paul Petras and his son A.J. were gunned down in their family business, but the wounds and emotions are still just as raw today as they were when they first heard the news.
“I walked down a little shortly after 5 o’clock that night and talked to the chief investigator, and I told him, ‘I had heard a couple of people had been shot,’ and I said, ‘Is it Paul and AJ?’ and he said, ‘I can't confirm that, but your fears are well founded.’ I lost it. Oh yeah, totally lost it,” said Withey.
Sitting at Thursday's press conference in front of law enforcement and seeing the pictures of Jeffrey Lepsch, the man police said is responsible for Paul and AJ's deaths, Paul's close friend John Brinckman said relief doesn't even begin to describe his feelings.
“I've met with his friends on more than one occasion, where we would just spend an hour or two with just questions, and some of those questions are being answered now,” said Brinckman.
“He deserves to pay the price,” said Withey.
While many more questions have yet to be answered, both Withey and Brinckman know Lepsch's arrest is a good start towards justice.
“I'm sure that Paul and A.J. are very happy with the news,” said Brinckman.
“Not to get mushy, but I'd tell Paul I still love him, and AJ too,” said Withey. “If I had a son, that'd who he'd be, but yeah I'd say, ‘Hey, we got em' and we're going to go on with life like you'd want us to.'”
Friends of the Petras family had planned a memorial fundraiser this weekend to support the family during this time.
The fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday Oct. 14 at Glory Days Bar in downtown La Crosse.
It starts at 1 p.m. and will have free food and beer. The money will be used to create a scholarship.
Donations are encouraged.
We also reached out to A.J. friends. It's a very difficult and emotional time for them, and they've respectfully declined to comment at this time.