Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

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A man suspected in serial killings in California who police said was caught while “out hunting” for another victim has been charged in four additional slayings, bringing the total to seven, state authorities announced this week.

Wesley Brownlee, 43, was also newly charged with attempted murder in an attack on a woman who escaped last year. Brownlee is accused of carrying out seemingly random shootings under the cover of darkness before fleeing the scenes of the seven killings and the one failed attack.

The shootings occurred in 2021 and 2022 in California’s Central Valley, stoking fear among residents. While the killer remained at large over the fall, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden told the public to “have your head on a swivel.”

Police arrested Brownlee on Oct. 15 after tailing him as he drove. He was taken into custody around 2 a.m. while armed with a gun and dressed in dark clothing, with a mask around his neck, McFadden said as he announced the arrest.

“We watched his patterns and determined early this morning he was on a mission to kill,” McFadden said during a news conference at the time. “He was out hunting.”

Brownlee was initially charged in the killings of Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, Juan Cruz and Lawrence Lopez Sr., the Los Angeles Times reported. The crimes occurred between August and September in Stockton, according to police.

On Tuesday, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office announced that it had filed an amended complaint charging Brownlee in the killings of Juan Alexander Vasquez and Mervin Harmon of Alameda County, as well as Paul Yaw and Salvador Debudey Jr. in San Joaquin County. He was also charged with attempted murder in the attack on Natasha LaTour, who survived and told police the shooter wore dark clothes, a dark jacket and a black “covid-style” mask.

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement that officials were working to “ensure justice for these victims.”

“We would like to thank the community for their support and law enforcement for their diligent investigation and apprehension of the suspect,” she added.

According to the complaint, Vasquez was fatally shot April 10, 2021. The shootings of Harmon and LaTour occurred six days later. Yaw was killed on July 8, 2022, and Debudey Jr. on Aug. 11.

The victims, several of whom were homeless, according to the Times, were attacked while alone at night or early in the morning.

Authorities said that the killings were linked by ballistic and video evidence and that tips from the public helped lead to a suspect. Before the arrest, police had released hazy footage of a person of interest, which did not show the person’s face. Police said they were seeking a suspect who cruised in a vehicle and lurked near parks in the dark, then homed in on a target, whom he would approach on foot.

That was what Brownlee was alleged to have been doing when he was arrested, the Times reported. Investigators had been watching him for several days after identifying him as a suspect when, Stockton police spokesman Joseph Silva told the newspaper, they saw him get out of the car he was driving and close in on a person in a park.

Brownlee is set to be arraigned Tuesday on the additional charges.



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