Opening statements begin in auto parts store double murder trial with defense saying client snapped

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Opening statements in the first death penalty trial in Baton Rouge in five years got started Thursday morning with defense attorneys admitting to the jury that their client snapped.

Attorneys present similar, but different versions of a double murder and robbery in the death penalty trial for Lee Turner Jr., 24 of Baton Rouge.

Defense Attorney Margaret Lagatutta told the jury that is possible her client "snapped" during a robbery of an auto parts store and could have possibly "blanked" out any killings done there. Lagatutta also said the prosecution's case contained holes.

"You've got to make them prove their case," she told the jury in her opening statements. "There are no eye witnesses, not a one."

Prosecutor Tracey Barbera says the defendant used his status as a new employee to gain the men's trust.

"The defendant disguised himself as a friend, a co-worker and hid in plain sight," Barbera told the jury during her opening statements. "There are no witnesses because he killed them both."

Lee Turner Jr., 25, of Baton Rouge, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two men during a robbery at CarQuest Auto Parts on Airline Highway in 2011. Edward Gurtner, 43, and Randy Chaney, 54, were found dead in a back room of the store on March 27, 2011.

Turner had just started working at a different CarQuest Auto Parts store and randomly showed up at the Airline location on a Sunday morning.

Defense attorneys said Turner's pregnant girlfriend had been pressuring him about money and that he only showed up to steal money and eventually lost control and snapped. From there, the two employees ended up dead.

The wife of one of the victims called authorities after finding her husband dead in the back room of the store, she testified today after prosecutors played the 911 call she made from the store.

Prosecutors told jurors that investigators found cash and a bank bag at the home where Turner was staying and the murder weapon with Turner's DNA on it behind the auto parts store

The jury will be sequestered for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last more than a week. District Court Judge Richard Anderson is presiding over the case.

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