- Video above: Suspect in California serial killings appears in court Oct. 18
In October, police arrested Wesley Brownlee, 43, while he was driving. Officials watched his patterns and “determined early this morning that he was out looking to kill… he was hunting.”
“We are sure we stopped another killing,” Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said following Brownlee’s arrest.
Police had been searching for a man caught on video at several crime scenes in Stockton, where five men were ambushed and shot to death between July 8 and Sept. 27. The San Joaquin County Office of the Medical Examiner identified the Stockton victims as Paul Yaw, 35, who died July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who died Aug. 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who died Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, who died Sept. 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died Sept. 27.
Four were walking, and one was in a parked car – all very late at night or early in the morning. Authorities believed the same person was responsible for killing a man, 39-year-old Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 70 miles away in Oakland in April 2021 and wounding a homeless woman in Stockton a week later.
Investigators were trying to identify a motive for the attacks. Police said some victims were homeless, but not all. None were beaten or robbed, and the woman who survived said her attacker didn’t say anything.
Records show Brownlee originally faced three murder charges for the deaths of Hernandez Rodriguez, Cruz and Lopez. An amended complaint filed by the DA added four more murder charges, these for the deaths of Juan Alexander Vasquez, Mervin Harmon, Yaw, and Debudey.
Brownlee now faces seven murder charges in total, as well as an attempted murder charge added for the shooting of the only surviving victim of the attacks.
One of the men, Mervin Harmon, is a newly identified victim as his death had not previously been connected to the killings. Harmon was killed in mid-April in Alameda County, according to the complaint. Records show he and Vasquez Serrano were killed in the same county, days apart.
When the original charges were filed, the DA’s office said it was “confident” more charges would be added as the investigation into the killings continued.
A reward for information leading to his arrest was claimed and split between two people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
John Ferrannini contributed reporting.