Why is it we always want to find a connection to a horrible story?
“Oh… that happened to my husband’s co-workers sister’s cousins classmate”. Like that makes us closer to the event. It is almost as if we have to say, look I am closer to this case than you! I kind of know someone involved and you read about it on the internet. I have been guilty of this. I would guess we all have done it. We want to be a part of something, anything. We want to connect to people and events.
I can stake the claim that Ed Gein was born in my hometown. Or that Jeffrey Dahlmer committed his crimes in my home state. But as far as I know, I don’t have a closer connection to any serial killers.
In 2012, I was living in Phoenix having moved away from home six years prior. I still see articles on Facebook shared by friends and family. One such post had me stop and read the article.
“Owner, son shot dead at May’s Photo in downtown LaCrosse”
When I was in high school and college I would go to May’s for all my film and photo paper. I could picture the store in my mind still. I was shocked. Who would want to murder the owner of May’s Photo? The murder happened after closing at 2 pm on a Saturday so I assumed robbery was the motive. When the owner did not return home or answer calls, his wife went to the store around 5 pm to check on him. She was the one to find her husband and son and ran to a nearby business to call 911.
Initially, the police had no suspects and asked anyone in the area around 2 pm report anything they saw. They also asked those that attended a photography class to contact them. The police used several methods to help find the killer.
The detectives looked through video surveillance and phone records. They spoke to witnesses and used an upside down trailer hitch the catch the suspect. A part-time store employee said he left about 2:30 pm and saw a customer in a hooded sweatshirt talking to the owner. Other witnesses also remember the man in the hooded sweatshirt. A video shows the man entering at 1:53 and leaving at 2:58 in a blue Dodge Caravan with an upside down trailer hitch.
The police tracked the victim’s phones from phone calls family members made. The phones traveled from downtown LaCrosse to nearby Onalaska’s shopping area.
The suspect was a Minnesota man named Jeffrey P. Lepsch, 39. He was a hobby photographer and out of work laborer. He also owed $60K in restitution due to a 2003 theft conviction.
Receipts show Lepsch made a purchase at Best Buy at 3:25 pm. He claims he was there at 1 pm.
A dealership helped narrow the year of the Dodge Caravan and narrow down the year for a list of matching vehicles. An officer spotted the vehicle, with upside down trailer hitch, at a home in Minnesota. The van was registered to Angie Lepsch, the suspect’s wife. Police searched the property and found camera equipment with matching serial numbers to the stolen items. Lepsch claimed he bought the equipment on Craigslist. Police also found a gray hooded sweatshirt.
The gun nor the victim’s phones were never found.
Not all the equipment was found and police were seeking people who may have purchased from Lepsch. One woman came forward and said she bought a camera from him days before the arrest. Police are going to look at her camera.
Lepsch was convicted in 2013 to consecutive life. It took the jury four hours to find him guilty on all four counts. He was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide (two counts), armed robbery with use of force, and possession of a firearm as a felon.
Lepsch appealed and claimed jury bias because he was not there for the jury oath. On March 31, 2017, he was denied a new trial.
What case do you feel connected to even though you aren’t necessarily close to the people?