January trial date picked for trial in CarQuest killings

A state judge complied Wednesday with an appeals court order and set a new trial date, Jan. 26, for the man accused in the fatal shooting of two Baton Rouge auto parts store workers in 2011.

Lee Turner Jr. was slated to stand trial April 28, but the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal threw out that date last week and told District Judge Richard Anderson to pick a new one because state funding for defense experts had become available only recently.

A shackled Turner, 23, of Baton Rouge, came to Anderson’s courtroom Wednesday for the selection of the new trial date and for a prosecutor and Turner’s attorneys to argue outstanding motions filed in the capital murder case.

One motion filed by the state asked the judge to compel Turner to provide a palm print sample.

Jackie Hohensee, a fingerprint examiner with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified Wednesday she needed the print to compare it against a partial palm print found on the front door of CarQuest Auto Parts on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane.

Prosecutor Tracey Barbera pushed for the comparison out of an abundance of caution, saying she did not want the defense to criticize the state for not testing all potential evidence collected at the murder scene.

Anderson allowed Hohensee to obtain Turner’s palm print in a room next to the courtroom. It turned out that the partial print did not belong to Turner.

The evidence against Turner so far includes money, bank bags and CarQuest deposit slips seized from his Ritterman Avenue home the day after the slayings. Anderson ruled last year that prosecutors can introduce the evidence at trial.

Turner also allegedly confessed in a videotaped statement to detectives that he went to the store to rob it, but wound up shooting the men after one of them recognized him. The judge ruled in 2012 that prosecutors can use the statement.

Edward Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs, were shot to death March 27, 2011, inside the store that Gurtner managed.

Turner, who worked at CarQuest locations on Plank Road and Government Street, was hired by the company less than two weeks before the killings.

He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if Turner is convicted as charged.