BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Closing arguments were given Monday morning and by 1:15 p.m., the jury reached a guilty verdict in the auto parts store double murder trial in Baton Rouge. Lee Turner Jr., 25, of Baton Rouge, was found guilty of 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.
Turner, who worked at the Plank Road CarQuest location, faces the death penalty. The sentencing phase began at 9 a.m. this morning.
Edward Gurtner, 43, and Randy Chaney, 54, were found dead in a back room of the store on March 27, 2011. Both were helping out at the store, but worked at other CarQuest locations.
According to prosecutors, Turner had 13 to 14 bullets in the gun, in his pocket, when he entered the CarQuest.
Chaney was shot once, in the back of the head. The prosecutor laid out seven evidence envelopes in front of the jury. Each containing a bullet removed from Gurtner's body. Four other bullets went through Gurtner's body.
They said Turner got away with $350.
Officers found the gun Turner used behind the business. They also found the store's bank bag in the trash at his apartment.
Prosecutor Tracey Barbera started off the penalty phase Tuesday morning by saying Turner's crime was intentional, deliberate and with complete disregard. Killing Randy Chaney and Eddie Gurtner makes him ignoble for the death penalty, which the state is seeking.
"The death penalty is the only appropriate penalty in this case. It will deliver justice," Barbera said.
Defense attorneys believe life in prison without the possibility of parole is a better punishment.
Turner's attorneys say certain events in his life created an environment where he could not thrive. They spent time discussing his displacement by Hurricane Katrina as one incident.
"The evidence we will show the death penalty is not appropriate punishment," said public defender Scott Collier.
He told the jury Turner has never had any arrests or been in any trouble before he committed the double murders at the age of 21. Lawyers say when Turner told police what he did he was so ashamed he couldn't look at them. They say Turner is asking for forgiveness and redemption by asking for a life sentence and not lethal injection.
Attorneys say their client has kept a clean record the four years he's been at the EBR parish prison. He's active in the faith based wing and a program called reality behind bars.
The state called six witnesses, family members of the deceased men. They testified how life has changed since the murders.
Eddie Gurtner's wife, Elizabeth, told jurors her youngest son Joey will not tell her he loves her.
"Because those were his fathers last words to me. He thinks if he says it, I won't come home," she said through tears.
Randy Chaney's wife described telling her husband to be careful before he went to work the morning of the murders. She says that morning she kissed him twice before he left.
"When was the next time you saw your husband?" Barbera asked.
"Four days later, in a casket at Rabenhurst," she answered after a long pause.
The state has rested.
The judge did briefly stop proceedings when it was pointed out that family members were wearing t-shirts with Turners picture and the phrase "We love you Lee" on them. Judge Anderson said the shirts could influence the jury and ruled the shirts were not allowed in the courtroom.
The defense began their testimony after the lunch break.