California man charged in 3 slayings linked to serial killer

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a Northern California man with fatally shooting three men whom police have said were among six victims slain by a serial killer over the past year and a half.

Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of killing six men and wounding a woman in a series of shootings dating back to April 2021. Police had been conducting surveillance on him Saturday as he drove through the streets of Stockton, armed with a handgun and possibly “out hunting” for another victim.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday filed three counts of murder, one count of a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of ammunition. Brownlee, a truck driver who had recently moved to Stockton from Oakland, was only charged in three recent slayings in Stockton.

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said she expects to file additional charges in two other murders in Stockton, as well as an attempted murder. Another killing occurred last year in Oakland, which is located in Alameda County.

“There are some people who are just simply too dangerous to share the streets with you and I,” Verber Salazar said at a press conference after Brownlee’s arraignment.

Brownlee did not enter a plea Tuesday and was scheduled to return to court on Nov. 14 for further arraignment. The judge assigned him a public defender. The public defender’s office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Detectives are still seeking tips from the public because Brownlee might be linked to more crimes, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said.

“We’re going to stay tenacious, we don’t know how many cases there are,” McFadden said.

The firearm found in Brownlee’s possession during his arrest is of a similar caliber to the one that was used in the violence. Authorities believe the same gun was used in the slayings of the three men and are testing it to determine whether it was used in the other shootings.

Verber Salazar would not say whether Brownlee knew any of the victims personally.

Authorities previously described the suspect — now identified as Brownlee — as a serial killer who was “on a mission” but did not appear to have a clear motive in who he targeted for his crimes. Investigators have said ballistics tests and video evidence linked the shootings.

The five men killed in Stockton this year were Paul Yaw, 35, who died July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who died Aug. 11; Jonathan Rodriguez Hernandez, 21, who died Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, who died Sept. 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died Sept. 27. Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021, and Natasha LaTour, 46, was shot in Stockton on April 16 that year but survived.

The criminal complaint filed Tuesday only lists charges for the killings of Rodriguez, Cruz and Lopez.

Brownlee grew up in Oakland and has a criminal history that includes traffic violations and convictions for drug crimes in Alameda County that goes back to an arrest when he was 15 years old , according to The East Bay Times. He was most recently discharged from parole in 2006.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.