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Trial to start for Minn. man in double homicide at La Crosse photo shop

LA CROSSE — Jury selection is set to begin this week in the trial of a Minnesota man accused of killing a La Crosse photography store owner and his son last year.

Jeffrey Lepsch, 40, is charged with two counts of first-degree homicide, armed robbery with the use of force and illegal possession of a firearm in the Sept. 15 fatal shooting of 56-year-old Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son, A.J.

Prosecutors contend that Lepsch, an amateur photographer from Dakota, Minn., stole the victims' cellphones and 23 items from May's Photo that were worth about $20,000. They are expected to argue that Lepsch needed money to help him pay off most of a $60,000 judgment against him in a prior case.

Lepsch's attorneys haven't revealed their defense. Jury selection is slated to begin Tuesday and the trial is expected to last nine days, the La Crosse Tribune reported ( http://bit.ly/159vEx8 ).

Investigators found 14 items that they said were stolen from the store in Lepsch's kitchen and basement.


Lepsch, who denied any involvement in slayings, told investigators he bought at least one of the items months earlier on Craigslist, according to the criminal complaint.

Lepsch, a married, stay-at-home father, had $126 in one bank account and was negative $118 and $136 in two others, police testified.

A judge in February 2012 levied a civil judgment of nearly $60,000 against him for unpaid restitution from a 2003 theft case. He had paid just a fraction of the penalty.

In that case, prosecutors charged Lepsch with stealing about $100,000 worth of merchandise from the Ace Hardware distribution center in the town of Campbell over 3½ years while working in loss prevention, according to the complaint.

He was caught on video loading his truck at the dock after turning off security cameras. Lepsch admitted stealing $8,000 worth of merchandise and selling most of the items, including tools, a grill, a water heater and radios, on eBay.

Lepsch was convicted of felony theft and placed on five years' probation and one year in jail with work release.

He remains jailed on a $2 million cash bond.

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