Judge refuses to block evidence in CarQuest trial

Evidence recovered from the Ritterman Avenue home of a man now accused of fatally shooting two employees of the CarQuest Auto Parts store on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane in March 2011 can be used at trial, a Baton Rouge judge ruled Monday.

The evidence — money, Regions Bank bags and CarQuest deposit slips — was seized from the home of Lee Turner Jr. on March 28, 2011, the day after Edward Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs, were gunned down inside the store that Gurtner managed.

Scott Collier, one of Turner’s attorneys, said he will ask the state 1st Circuit of Appeal to review state District Judge Richard Anderson’s ruling.

The judge’s ruling came nine months after he also rejected a defense request to suppress Turner’s videotaped statement in which he confessed to detectives that he shot and killed Gurtner and Chaney.

Turner, now 23, told detectives his initial motive was to rob the store, but he wound up shooting the men because Gurtner recognized him.

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

Baton Rouge police officer Phillip Chapman testified Monday that he canvassed a number of businesses in the vicinity of the Airline Highway store on March 28, 2011, looking for any evidence on those businesses’ video surveillance cameras. He said he found video at a nearby auto collision repair shop showing a white car matching the description of Turner’s BMW pass the area three times in a short period of time around 3 p.m. on March 27, 2011.

The auto parts store closed that day at 3 p.m., and a police detective 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.

“It looked like it possibly could be a BMW,” Chapman testified of the car he observed on the video. “What I saw to me was unusual.”

Collier argued to Anderson that the information about the car should not have been included in the search warrant application for Turner’s home.

“At best you have a white vehicle with no other identifying features,” he said. “It’s just a white vehicle.”

In their motion to suppress the evidence recovered from Turner’s home, his attorneys claim the search warrant application contained “intentionally false information.”

But prosecutor Tracey Barbera countered Monday that detectives never said they saw Turner’s car on the video — just one matching its description.

“The defense failed to meet its burden of proof,” she argued. “This motion should be denied.”

Anderson agreed, then set a March 27 status hearing. A trial date is expected to be selected at that hearing.

Turner is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office intends to seek the death penalty.