UPDATE: More details released in May's Photo murders
It was a crime that shocked our community.
The owner of May's Photo and his teenage son were shot to death last month in their downtown business in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon.
Now the man police say is responsible for that double homicide is in custody.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota, Minn. was arrested yesterday.
Investigators have combed through thousands of hours of surveillance video from more than 150 local businesses in this case.
The road to Jeffrey Lepsch starts on the 400 block of Main Street. That's where surveillance video caught a man wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and a backpack getting out of a van and going inside May's Photo just before 2 p.m. on Sept. 15.
Security video also caught the same man coming out of the store about an hour later, this time carrying four bags.
"Hopefully we can get more people putting cameras in their businesses and stuff because that really was a major piece of this puzzle being put together in solving this crime," said La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer.
Investigators said the man in that video is Lepsch, and while he was inside, he stole more than $16,000 worth of camera equipment and shot Paul and AJ Petras to death.
AJ Petras' body was found behind the main counter in front of a safe. His father's body was found in the restroom.
"Let's face it. Nobody in La Crosse would like to think something like this could happen,” said La Crosse Police Capt. Jason Melby, who headed up the investigation. “We were thinking, who would come in, in the middle of the day, and do something like this in downtown La Crosse? And some of the local businesses were telling us it was one of the busiest days of the year for them."
Multiple witnesses said they saw a white male, about 5-foot-5, wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and a backpack, inside the store that afternoon.
Investigators tracked down the van caught on security video -- the van being driven by a man matching that description.
The blue Dodge Caravan belonged to Lepsch's wife.
Police searched their Dakota home and found 14 of the missing pieces of camera equipment inside.
They also found a grey hooded sweatshirt.
And while Lepsch's arrest may be a big step forward in this case, one big question is still unanswered.
"Why? Why go in and kill two people when you're just looking for camera equipment or you just want to steal something? It's just a senseless crime that didn't need to be committed," said Tischer.
Now that police have released the name of their suspect, they're hoping even more witnesses will come forward.
It is still unknown whether the Petras family had any sort of relationship with Lepsch. That's something investigators hope to clear up soon.
Investigators took hundreds of pieces of evidence from Lepsch's home yesterday. Those all have to be processed.
They also need to figure out where the missing pieces of camera equipment that they did not find in Lepsch's home are now, and whether they've been sold off.
Police have not found the .22-caliber handgun they believe was used in the crime.
Police say at this time they are not looking for any other suspects.
Lepsch faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, armed robbery and possession of a firearm as a felon.
He has a past conviction for stealing $60,000 worth of equipment from Ace Hardware in La Crosse.
Jeffrey Lepsch made his first court appearance in Winona County on Thursday.
Lepsch requested a public defender to represent him at the hearing. That means his next hearing will be on Oct. 18.
The judge set a $10 million unconditional cash bail at the request of the Winona County Attorney.
Lepsch's wife, Angie, was in the courtroom with a few other people. She was visibly shaking throughout the hearing.
When Lepsch stood up to leave, he looked back at the group and mouthed a message to them.
Some of Lepsch's neighbors said Lepsch is a stay-at-home dad. They also said they are shocked he is facing homicide charges.
Lepsch will be held in the Winona County jail until his next hearing.
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