by EMILY BUSS
Shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, the Dakota man accused of killing a father and son at their La Crosse photo shop last month waived his right to an extradition hearing, and will be escorted to Wisconsin to face homicide and robbery charges.
A somber Jeffrey Peter Lepsch, 39, signed the waiver during a brief hearing at the Winona County Courthouse and acknowledged that he received proper legal counsel regarding his decision.
Winona County District Court Judge Mary C. Leahy presided over Lepsch’s second court appearance and signed the extradition waiver, which revoked the $10 million bail bond in order to allow him to be transported to La Crosse.
Prosecutors believe Lepsch shot and killed Paul Petras, 56, and his 19-year-old son Andrew “A.J.” Petras, on September 15 inside May’s Photo shop in downtown La Crosse.
A four-week investigation led local law enforcement officials to a residence in Dakota where they found and arrested Lepsch.
Surveillance footage captured from neighboring businesses showed a male wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and carrying a backpack enter May’s Photo at approximately 1:52 p.m. that September afternoon, and leave just after 2:30 p.m. It showed the man carrying four large duffle bags as he got into a blue Dodge minivan parked near by.
On the afternoon of October 10, members of the La Crosse Police Department, Winona County Sheriff’s Department, and five other law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant at his Dakota home. Law enforcement found 14 pieces of photography equipment scattered throughout the home and valued the items at over $16,000. Some equipment was identified by serial numbers as belonging to May’s Photo.
Lepsch was taken into custody without incident, and he is being charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of armed robbery.
At this time, investigators are withholding information about motive or whether Lepsch had any prior connection to the Petras family.
Lepsch has no prior violent criminal record but was convicted of a felony in 2003 after he stole more than $60,000 of merchandise from an Ace Hardware facility in La Crosse.
Keep reading the Winona Post for more details as this case continues to develop.