Man gets life for killing father, son in La Crosse

The man convicted of killing Paul and A.J. Petras in their downtown La Crosse photo shop on September 15, 2012, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday morning in La Crosse County Court.

Judge Ramona Gonzalez said parole was “not appropriate.” 

A jury found Lepsch guilty on July 30 of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, armed robbery and possession of a firearm as a felon. Lepsch killed Paul and A.J. Petras in May’s Photo and then stole $17,000 worth of camera equipment.

Lepsch was sentenced to life without parole for the deaths of Paul and A.J. Petras. He was sentenced to 25 years initial confinement and 15 years extended supervision for the Class C felony of armed robbery with use of force. Lepsch was sentenced to 5 years initial confinement and 15 years extended supervision for Class G felony of felon possess firearm.

Judge Gonzalez said Lepsch “did a really good job of lying” to his mother and wife. “To say [the killings] were cold-blooded in my mind is an understatement,” Judge Gonzalez said. “Within a breath of committing the crimes, he continues to live his life as though nothing has changed.” She told Lepsch, “I think you have demonstrated that you are a danger to society.”


Before the formal sentencing, Judge Gonzalez read several letters on behalf of the Petras family and members of the community who have been affected by the death of Paul and A.J. Petras and the Lepsch trial.

Allison Petras, Paul’s daughter and A.J.’s sister, wrote: “Honestly, words cannot begin to explain what this tragedy has put me and my family through. Every day is a struggle.”

Allison continued, “I will never have a father-daughter dance, or a dad to walk me down the aisle at my wedding.” She wrote family was number one to her and they had a small one to begin with. “I would give anything to have them both back.”

Judge Gonzalez said she “shed many tears” while reading letters during her consideration for the Lepsch sentencing.

Alycia, A.J.’s girlfriend said, “The pain this crime caused me is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Lepsch’s defense attorney Vincent Rust said he will likely appeal the sentencing decision. “This is a horrible tragedy for the Petras family. My client understands that. This is also a horrible tragedy for my client’s family.”