After an almost month-long manhunt, the Stockton Police Department was in search of the person responsible for the series of five killings in Stockton, and one in Oakland.
On October 15, authorities arrested the suspected serial killer, Wesley Brownlee, a 43-year-old Stockton resident. The police were able to capture Brownlee as they had been monitoring his whereabouts, and a brief surveillance video showing the suspect aided police in their search.
“His patterns were consistent with some of the patterns that we had seen … around parks, around dark places, stopping, looking around, moving again,” said police Chief Stanley McFadden (ABC News)
After surveying Brownlee for some time, investigators stopped him in his car at around 2 a.m. in Central Valley City. The authorities reported they found Brownlee in his car armed with a gun and searching for another victim.
Prosecutors said Brownlee used an untraceable “ghost gun” to carry out the murders. To elaborate, a “ghost gun” is a firearm that can be 3D printed without a federally mandated serial number or the usual background check.
On October 18, Brownlee made his first appearance in court and was held without bail.
A significant number of the victims are homeless and Latino. However, police say there’s no correlation/evidence of the murders being motivated by these factors.
Brownlee has only been charged with murder in three of his Stockton killings. The murder charges include the deaths of Juan Cruz, 52, on Sept. 21; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, on August 30; and Lorenzo Lopez on Sept. 27.
Prosecutors plan on adding more charges for the murders of 43-year-old Salvador Debudey Jr. who was shot and killed on Aug. 11; 35-year-old Paul Alexander Yaw who was fatally shot on July 8; and 39-year-old Juan Miguel Vazquez Serrano who was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021.
Natasha LaTour, a 46-year-old homeless woman, was the sole survivor of Brownlee’s murder spree. On April 16, 2021, she informed officers that she was inside her tent when she heard someone approaching. Brownlee had shot her multiple times, but LaTour managed to survive her injuries.
“She told police that on the day of the attack, the shooter was wearing a dark-colored sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, dark pants, and a black face mask,” (NPR News)
Brownlee’s attorney, public defender Allison Nobert, called these statements against him “inflammatory.”
On October 24, Nobert requested a gag order that would prevent law enforcement from making further statements on the case to the public. This request was denied.
“The court cannot find at this point a reasonable likelihood that the negative press would prevent Mr. Brownlee from receiving a fair trial and empaneling a fair and impartial jury,” said San Joaquin County Superior Court judge Xapuri Villapudua (ABC10)
Brownlee is expected to be back in court to enter a plea on November 14.
Written by Staff Writer, Luis Ramirez