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A California man suspected of killing six men has been formally charged with three murders, though more charges are expected to come, according to officials.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested Saturday as the only-named suspect believed to be responsible for seven shootings, six deadly, primarily focused in the Stockton area. Police stated in a press release later that day that they stopped Brownlee while “he was out hunting” for his next victim.
On Tuesday, San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced Brownlee was charged with the murders of three most recent killings tied to the suspected Stockton-area serial killer: The Aug. 30 murder of Jonathan Rodriguez Hernandez, 21; the Sept. 21 murder of Juan Carlos Carranza-Cruz, 52; and the Sept. 27 murder of Lawrence ‘Lorenzo’ Lopez, 54.
All three victims were alone when shot to death in the northern part of Stockton after nightfall, which fit the pattern of the potential serial killer.
On top of three murder charges, Brownlee is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and one count of possession of ammunition by a felon, according to San Joaquin officials. As detailed in a criminal complaint filed in superior court, Brownlee has previous convictions stemming from crack cocaine possession.
According to ABC Sacramento affiliate KXTV, Brownlee has other traffic and minor drug charges under his belt and was temporarily ordered to stay away from his own relatives as part of a 2010 civil case.
“Today, our community can breathe a sigh of relief. The man suspected of taking multiple lives is behind bars,” DA Salazar stated. “There is sufficient evidence to pursue three counts of murder, and we are confident additional charges will be added to the complaint as the investigation progresses.”
Brownlee is also suspected of fatally shooting Paul Yaw, 35, on July 8 and Salvador William Debudey Jr., 43, on Aug. 11, within just a few miles of the other three victims with whom Brownlee is charged.
Police also announced the five Stockton murders were linked to Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, who was shot to death on April 10, 2021, in Oakland, some 70 miles west of Stockton, part of Alameda County.
The shooting of 46-year-old Natasha LaTour six days after Serrano’s murder has also been connected to the others. However, LaTour lived to tell her story and was able to give a partial description of the suspect to investigators.
San Joaquin officials say Stockton Police had “reasonable suspicion” to stop Brownlee in the early morning hours on Saturday. As previously reported, Stockton police arrested Brownlee after he left his apartment, finding him with a mask around his neck and a firearm in his possession.
The District Attorney’s Office said police “were conducting surveillance” due to “the behavior exhibited by the individual,” though it remains unclear how Brownlee came onto their radar.
Officials say they have “high confidence” the weapon found with Brownlee was the same weapon used in the murders of Hernandez, Cruz and Lopez.
Brownlee’s family members told KXTV that the suspect was a full-time truck driver, which was confirmed by DA Salazar, according to NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA-TV.
Salazar stated Brownlee was from Oakland but had recently moved to Stockton, where some of his relatives lived.
Before Brownlee was identified as the only suspect, police worked "around the clock” to put a name to the alleged serial killer lurking in Stockton’s shadows. They released a still shot and surveillance video in hopes of garnering the public’s help, issuing a $125,000 reward for information.
“This person was near perfect… didn’t make many mistakes, purposely stayed in the dark,” said Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden, according to KXTV. “For law enforcement and the community to come together and make this arrest is just phenomenal.”
Attorney General Rob Bonta praised the Stockton Police Department and other law enforcement agencies assisting in the investigation, including the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms and Bureau of Forensic Services.
“When we face a challenge or threat to the safety of Californians, we stand strong when we stand together,” Bonta stated. “Because of our collaborative work, the citizens of Stockton and California communities can feel comfort in knowing that this suspect is off our streets and out of their neighborhoods.”
Bonta added that the charges were “an important step forward in our efforts to hold this suspect accountable and in healing the trauma” of their community.
San Joaquin officials further praised Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau and the ATF.
The District Attorney’s Office announced Brownlee was remanded to custody by the Honorable Judge John Soldati and that their investigation into the murders is ongoing.
Police Chief McFadden said they are still asking for more information from the public, as Brownlee may be connected to other homicides, according to the Associated Press.
“We’re going to stay tenacious,” said McFadden. “We don’t know how many cases there are.”
Brownlee was assigned a public defender and did not enter a plea during a court hearing on Tuesday, per the Associated Press. Jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Brownlee is scheduled to next appear in court on Nov. 14.
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