Deputy: No deception in warrant bid

Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- This photo shows the scene of a double homicide in March 2011 at Carquest Auto Parts near Airline Highway and Siegen Lane as East Baton Rouge sheriff's secure the scene.
Advocate file photo by ADAM LAU -- This photo shows the scene of a double homicide in March 2011 at Carquest Auto Parts near Airline Highway and Siegen Lane as East Baton Rouge sheriff's secure the scene.

A sheriff’s deputy testified Wednesday that he did not mislead the judge who signed a warrant allowing authorities to search the home of a man suspected of fatally shooting two employees of an auto parts store on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane in 2011.

Attorneys for 23-year-old Lee Turner Jr., however, contend the search warrant application that was presented to state District Judge Richard Anderson on March 28, 2011, contained “intentionally false information.”

Those court-appointed attorneys, Scott Collier and Margaret Lagattuta, are asking Anderson to disallow the physical evidence — money, Regions Bank bags and CarQuest Auto Parts deposit slips — recovered from Turner’s Ritterman Avenue home that day.

Turner, who worked at a different CarQuest store in Baton Rouge, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 27, 2011, slaying of Edward Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted as charged. A trial date has not been set.

Anderson recessed Wednesday’s hearing until Feb. 25 due to the unavailability of a witness the defense wished to call.

The defense did call two witnesses: former East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Locicero, who prepared the contested search warrant application, and Sgt. Sonya Harden, lead sheriff’s detective on the case.

The search warrant application says surveillance video from two local businesses shows that a “white four-door vehicle” — fitting the description of Turner’s BMW — circled the block where CarQuest is located “three times after 3 p.m.” on the day Gurtner and Chaney were killed.

Gurtner was the store manager.

The defense’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered during the search claims the video fails to support that contention.

Harden testified at a December 2011 hearing that it is believed the two men were killed between 2:47 p.m. — when the last employee to see them alive clocked out — and 3:13 p.m., when the men could not be reached by phone. The store closed that Sunday at 3 p.m.

Locicero, now a deputy with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, acknowledged Wednesday that he did not view the surveillance video before preparing the search warrant application. He said other law enforcement personnel told him what they observed in the video.

“I believed it was pertinent. Therefore, I put it in the search warrant,” he testified in response to a question from Collier.

Locicero noted that the affidavit in support of the search warrant does not say Turner or his car circled the block, but that a vehicle matching the description of Turner’s car did so.

“No ma’am,” Locicero replied when prosecutor Tracey Barbera asked if he tried to deceive Anderson.

Harden, who took part in the search of Turner’s home, testified Wednesday that she did review the video, and said she agrees that a white vehicle matching the description of Turner’s car was seen on the video.

“I saw a white vehicle passing these businesses. It was more than once,” she said. “I cannot agree or disagree with the number of times the vehicle passed. I can’t recall.”

In May, Anderson refused to suppress Turner’s videotaped statement in which he confessed to detectives that he shot and killed Gurtner and Chaney. Turner told detectives his initial motive was to rob the store, but he wound up shooting the men because Gurtner recognized him.

Turner was hired March 16, 2011, and had worked at CarQuest locations on Government Street and Plank Road.