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Suspected Stockton, California serial killer Wesley Brownlee charged with 3 murders

Photo of Andrew Chamings

Stockton police Chief Stanley McFadden speaks in front of a photo of suspect Wesley Brownlee during a press conference in Stockton, Calif., on Oct. 15, 2022. 

Stockton police Chief Stanley McFadden speaks in front of a photo of suspect Wesley Brownlee during a press conference in Stockton, Calif., on Oct. 15, 2022. 

Clifford Oto, MBR / Associated Press

Suspected California serial killer Wesley Brownlee, 43, made his first appearance in a packed Stockton courtroom Tuesday, where he was formally charged with three counts of murder by the San Joaquin County District Attorney. Brownlee is suspected in a total of six killings and one shooting in which the victim survived over a 17-month period. He was also charged with other firearms violations, and authorities said during the proceedings that more charges may yet be pending. 

“This individual thought he could come to our community and cause harm,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar told gathered reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Not in our house. Our community has suffered under this reign of terror.”

The DA revealed that the suspect worked as a trucker and had recently moved to Stockton. She would not comment when asked if the suspect knew any of the victims. In court earlier Tuesday it was revealed that cellular data was used to connect some of the crime scenes. 

Brownlee was arrested before dawn Saturday while driving through the streets of Stockton armed with a black and gray semi-automatic handgun, police said. The suspect was dressed in black with a mask around his neck and was “out hunting,” Stockton police Chief Stanley McFadden alleged in a press conference Saturday, adding, “We are sure we stopped another killing.” 

Five of the killings believed to be linked occurred in Stockton between July 8 and Sept. 27. An earlier killing in Oakland in April 2021 and the wounding of a homeless woman around the same time in Stockton are also believed to be linked. Investigators have said ballistics tests and video evidence connected the crimes.

A map showing the locations of the six recent attacks in the city of Stockton that resulted in five deaths. 

A map showing the locations of the six recent attacks in the city of Stockton that resulted in five deaths. 

Illustration by SFGATE

The murder charges brought against Brownlee on Tuesday are for the three most recent killings reported — Jonathan Rodriguez, 21; Juan Carlos Carranza-Cruz, 52; and Lawrence Lopez, 54.

After Stockton police announced Sept. 30 that a a serial killer may be on the loose, investigators said at a press conference Saturday that they received hundreds of tips. That influx of information resulted in them surveilling Brownlee’s residence in Stockton before making the arrest at about 2 a.m. Saturday.

Since Brownlee’s arrest, the suspect’s troubled past has been unearthed through criminal records and newspaper archives.

Brownlee was born in San Francisco and grew up on Seminary Avenue in Oakland, the Mercury News reported Monday. Records show that both his brother and a close family friend were killed on the same block in East Oakland in 1995. An Oakland Tribune story from Oct. 4, 1995, reported that Brownlee’s brother, Dale Brownlee, 17, was shot to death in a drug-related killing on the 5700 block of East 16th Street. That story also referenced the killing of Brownlee’s friend earlier that year. “On April 19, Kojo Upshaw, 18, a close friend of Brownlee’s, was stabbed to death in the same block,” the story read. 

Brownlee has a litany of previous brushes with the law. According to the Mercury News, Brownlee was arrested for selling crack cocaine three times while living in East Oakland, the first incident coming at the age of 15.

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