On the eighth day of jury selection Wednesday, the lead attorney for accused killer Lee Turner Jr. asked for his capital murder trial to be halted after learning from the prosecutor that a father and son entered the CarQuest Auto Parts store on March 27, 2011 — apparently with two workers dead inside — but left before police arrived.
Margaret Lagattuta alleged in a motion to continue the trial that the “previously undisclosed witnesses … may have contaminated the crime scene” on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane.
Lagattuta said she wants to speak with both men.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Tracey Barbera, who only learned of the witnesses Sunday, said Wednesday there is no reason to believe the crime scene was contaminated.
State District Judge Richard Anderson did not indicate when he will hear the defense motion.
Jury selection in the Turner case began April 13 and could extend into next week. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Barbera said she learned of the existence of the father and son when she was going through DNA samples in the case and came across two that had been submitted into evidence but never tested. Those samples are now being tested, and the results could come by Thursday.
The father contacted the Sheriff’s Office on March 28, 2011, after seeing a television report about the double-murder and told a detective that he and his son went into the CarQuest store on Airline the afternoon of March 27, 2011, looking for coolant for his truck, according to a recently created supplemental police report attached to Lagattuta’s motion.
“After looking around for a few minutes they went to the counter to wait on some help,” the report states. “After waiting for a short time (the son) advised that he went to the front door and saw that the business had closed earlier. (He) further advised they believed that the workers were in the back and forgot to lock the door so they left the business.
“Neither advised that they saw anything suspicious while in the store,” the report says.
Lagattuta’s motion says detectives failed to create a report documenting their interaction with the two men and their collection of evidence — DNA swabs — from the men.
“It was important enough to swab them. It wasn’t important enough to test it?” she asked Wednesday inside the courtroom while discussing the matter with the judge and prosecutor.
Turner, 25, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Edward Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs. Gurtner managed the Airline Highway store.
Turner was hired by the company less than two weeks before the killings and worked at CarQuest locations on Plank Road and Government Street.
Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.