The soft-spoken father of convicted murderer Lee Turner Jr. told a jury Wednesday he still believes his son is innocent in the 2011 slaying of two CarQuest Auto Parts employees in Baton Rouge and said a vote to put his son to death would be “just like killin’ me.”
Lee Turner Sr. also told his 25-year-old son he loves him and apologized to the families of Edward “Eddie” Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs, who were shot to death in the warehouse of the CarQuest on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane during a robbery on March 27, 2011.
“Sorry. Sorry. To the victims’ families, I’m very sorry,” the elder Turner said, waving in the direction of members of the Gurtner and Chaney families seated in the courtroom.
One of Lee Turner Jr.’s court-appointed attorneys, Scott Collier, then asked Turner’s father if there was anything he wanted to say to his son, who was found guilty Monday of two counts of first-degree murder.
“I love my son very much. Very much,” he said softly. “I love you, Lee.”
Lee Turner Jr. could be seen wiping his eyes with a tissue.
“I don’t know what happened. I wish I could just take it all back. I wish I could do something,” Lee Turner Sr. added. “I can’t do anything to help you right now. Innocent until proven guilty; I still don’t think you’re guilty, honestly.”
When Collier asked Lee Turner Sr. what it would do to him if jurors recommend the death penalty rather than a sentence of life in prison without parole, the elder Turner replied, “It’s just like killin’ me.”
The penalty phase of the capital murder trial will enter its third day Thursday at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.
Lee Turner Sr. said he never married his son’s mother, Melissa Moss.
Lee Turner Jr.’s aunt, Lakeshea Moss, testified earlier Wednesday that her nephew’s mother was not a good mother.
“He didn’t get to be a kid,” she said of Turner, who was 21 when he fatally shot Gurtner and Chaney. “Whenever I could get him, I made sure life was fun for him.”
Other family members of Lee Turner Jr.’s family testified that the news of his March 28, 2011, arrest in the double-homicide blind-sided them.
“He never got in trouble at school or nothing,” Lee Turner Jr.’s older brother, Demarcus Moss, said.
Moss said it was he, not his brother, who would fight at school.
“I thought he (Demarcus) would be the one in a situation, not Lee,” Moss’ father, Mark Joseph, testified.
Lee Turner Jr.’s uncle, Kevron Powell, said Turner is like a son to him, which makes the double-murder all the more difficult to grasp.
“This all feels strange to me right now,” Powell said. “ ‘I love you’ is not enough. I feel like it’s my fault. I wanted him to be better than me.”
Demarcus Moss, who said he and Lee Turner Jr. grew up in New Orleans, testified Turner lived with their mother while he was raised by his grandparents. Moss said their mother had several boyfriends and would often fight with one of them.
“I can count on one hand how many times my mom hugged me and said she loved me. We pretty much dealt with the same problems,” Moss said, referring to himself and his brother. “What we didn’t have was love.”
But Moss said he still loves his brother, even though Wednesday marked the first time he had seen him since his arrest.
“I love him with all my heart. I want him to know that,” he said. “I’m not going to stop praying for him.”
Lee Turner Jr. also worked for CarQuest in Baton Rouge at the time of the murders. His first day of work with the company came 11 days before the killings.
Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.