The state rested its capital murder case against accused killer Lee Turner Jr. on Sunday after a jury watched him in a videotaped interrogation admit that he fatally shot two CarQuest Auto Parts workers during an afternoon robbery on March 27, 2011, and spent some of the stolen money on his girlfriend that night.
During the 11-hour interrogation the day after the killings, East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s detectives Sonya Harden and Leonardo Moore informed Turner that they found a wad of cash in his bedroom and bank bags and CarQuest deposit slips in a garbage can outside the Ritterman Avenue home where he lived with his uncle.
But Turner didn’t confess until Moore, at the tail end of the marathon interrogation, told him that a gun had just been recovered behind the CarQuest on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane.
Turner came clean at that point and said he followed Randy Chaney into the store’s warehouse where Edward Gurtner III was working and shot Chaney once. Turner said he then forced Gurtner, the store manager, to give him money from the safe and repeatedly shot Gurtner, who tried to flee.
“I emptied the whole clip,” Turner told the detectives, meaning he fired the .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol until the 13-bullet magazine was empty.
The victims’ wives, Elizabeth Gurtner and Lola Chaney, cried in the courtroom Sunday as they watched Turner’s videotaped confession.
The pathologist who performed the two men’s autopsies testified Friday that Gurtner, 43, of Denham Springs, was shot 12 times, including several in the back, and Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs, was shot once in the back of the head.
The trial will enter its fifth day Monday.
Turner, 25, had begun working for CarQuest on Plank Road on March 16, 2011 — 11 days before the slayings. He was 21 at the time of the killings.
If Turner’s attorneys choose to rest their case without calling any witnesses, closing arguments will then begin Monday morning, followed by state District Judge Richard Anderson’s jury instructions and jurors’ private deliberations.
If the sequestered jury convicts Turner of first-degree murder, the trial will move to the penalty phase. The panel would have to decide whether to recommend a sentence of death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole. The defense already has indicated it will call several witnesses in the penalty phase if the case reaches that point.
If Turner is found guilty of a lesser crime such as second-degree murder, there would be no penalty phase and he would receive a mandatory life sentence. The jury also could find him guilty of manslaughter, which carries up to 40 years in prison.
At one point during the interrogation when Turner was denying any involvement in the double-murder, Leonardo Moore told him: “I’m trying to keep the public from thinking you’re an animal.”
Later, after the cash was found in Turner’s bedroom, Moore said to him: “This is your chance to get your things straight. I’m trying to keep you from getting a needle stuck in your arm.”
After learning that Regions Bank bags, CarQuest deposit slips and a set of clothes were discovered in a garbage can outside his home, Turner blamed the killings on another CarQuest employee, but he changed that story after the gun was discovered.
Moore told Turner after he confessed, “I can’t make you any promises, but I think you saved your life.”
Harden, the lead detective on the case, made no apologies Sunday for the lengthy interrogation.
“I do not apologize for holding him,” she said, adding that Turner likely would have destroyed the evidence that a search warrant enabled them to recover during the interrogation.