A Baton Rouge man accused in the March 27 murders of two Airline Highway auto parts store workers told sheriff’s detectives he visited the store once the day before and twice the day of the killings, but denied involvement in the crime, according to portions of his lengthy videotaped interrogation played in court Thursday.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has said Lee Turner Jr. eventually told detectives his initial motive was to rob the CarQuest Auto Parts store near Siegen Lane, but he wound up shooting Edward Gurtner III and Randy Chaney because one of the men recognized him.
In the remainder of Turner’s videotaped statement, which will be played in court Feb. 15, Turner makes that confession, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers said.
Baton Rouge criminal defense attorneys for the 22-year-old Turner want Judge Anderson to suppress the statement, meaning a jury would not be allowed to hear it.
Margaret Lagattuta, one of Turner’s court-appointed criminal defense lawyers, said after Thursday’s daylong hearing it is important to suppress the statement because the case against Turner is a circumstantial one. There are no witnesses to the crime.
Sgt. Sonya Harden, the lead detective in the CarQuest case, testified that detectives found money wrapped in rubber bands in Turner’s bedroom and a Regions Bank bag in a trash can outside his home at the same time he was initially denying involvement in the killings.
Harden said the bank bag was consistent with the type CarQuest used.
She also testified that East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office investigator Chuck Smith found the gun used in the slayings behind the store while Turner was being questioned March 28 at the Sheriff’s Office. Turner was at the Sheriff’s Office that day for more than 11 hours.
Harden said it is believed that the two men were killed between 2:47 p.m. — when the last employee to see them alive clocked out — and 3:13 p.m., when the men could not be reached by phone. The store closed that Sunday at 3 p.m.
Turner is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutor Tracey Barbara said the District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty.
In Louisiana, first-degree murder is the killing of a human being:
(1) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated kidnapping, second degree kidnapping, aggravated escape, aggravated arson, aggravated rape, forcible rape, aggravated burglary, armed robbery, assault by drive-by shooting, first degree robbery, second degree robbery, simple robbery, terrorism, cruelty to juveniles, or second degree cruelty to juveniles.
(2) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a fireman, peace officer, or civilian employee of the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory or any other forensic laboratory engaged in the performance of his lawful duties, or when the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm is directly related to the victim’s status as a fireman, peace officer, or civilian employee.
(3) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon more than one person.
(4) When the offender has specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm and has offered, has been offered, has given, or has received anything of value for the killing.
(5) When the offender has the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a victim who is under the age of twelve or sixty-five years of age or older.
(6) When the offender has the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm while engaged in the distribution, exchange, sale, or purchase, or any attempt thereof, of a controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or V of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
(7) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and is engaged in the activities prohibited by R.S. 14:107.1(C)(1).
(8) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and there has been issued by a judge or magistrate any lawful order prohibiting contact between the offender and the victim in response to threats of physical violence or harm which was served on the offender and is in effect at the time of the homicide.
(9) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a victim who was a witness to a crime or was a member of the immediate family of a witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion and:
(a) The killing was committed for the purpose of preventing or influencing the victim’s testimony in any criminal action or proceeding whether or not such action or proceeding had been commenced; or
(b) The killing was committed for the purpose of exacting retribution for the victim’s prior testimony.
(10) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm and the offender has previously acted with a specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm that resulted in the killing of one or more persons.
If you or someone you know has been charged with homicide contact Baton Rouge Criminal Attorney Carl Barkemeyer by visiting http://www.attorneycarl.com.
Source: The Advocate, “Interrogation played in court,” December 2, 2011