A Baton Rouge state judge Monday followed a jury’s unanimous recommendation and sentenced Lee Turner Jr. to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting two CarQuest Auto Parts workers during a 2011 robbery of the store on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane.
Turner, 25, said nothing before 19th Judicial District Judge Richard Anderson formally condemned him to death for the killing of Edward “Eddie” Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs, on March 27, 2011.
Turner, formerly of New Orleans, was living in Baton Rouge and working at another CarQuest store in the city at the time of the slayings. He was 21 at the time. The company had hired him 11 days before that tragic day.
“I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad our justice system is still working,” Gurtner’s wife, Elizabeth Gurtner, said outside Anderson’s courtroom.
“This today for me ends it,” she added, noting that Turner likely won’t die in her lifetime.
Edward Gurtner managed the CarQuest where the murders took place. Chaney was the assistant manager of a different CarQuest location and was helping out at the Airline Highway store that day.
Also Monday, Anderson denied a defense motion for a new trial that was filed Friday.
Caroline Tillman, one of Turner’s new attorneys with the Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans, complained in court Monday that 20 prospective jurors were excused from the case based on their religious beliefs and opposition to the death penalty.
Tillman also argued that blacks were systematically excluded from the jury pool, a charge that East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Tracey Barbera, who prosecuted Turner, vehemently denied. Barbera said she found the accusation that she discriminated against potential jurors on the basis of their race offensive and unfounded.
Barbera stressed that Turner finds himself on death row because of the “premeditated nature of these crimes for monetary gain.”
Tillman declined to speak after the sentencing hearing.
The jury that convicted Turner on May 4 on two counts of first-degree murder recommended May 8 that he should be executed for his crimes.
Gurtner was shot 12 times. Chaney was shot once in the back of the head.
Turner confessed the day after the killings after initially denying any involvement. Turner said he shot Chaney first, then Gurtner after forcing him to open the store safe.
Detectives found bank bags and CarQuest deposit slips in a garbage can outside the Ritterman Avenue home where Turner stayed with his uncle.