Public defender in Stockton serial killer case calls law enforcement claims ‘inflammatory’, but gag order denied

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Inevitably, cops who think they’ve caught a serial killer after six murders will make inflammatory statements. But serial killer Wesley Brownlee remains a suspect, has not entered a guilty plea, and his public defender is doing what he can to get a fair trial.

It made national news last week when suspected serial killer Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested in Stockton, allegedly “hunting” for a seventh victim and “with a mission to kill,” Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said after the arrest. Brownlee was caught with a ghost gun that police say has been traced to six victims — five in Stockton and one last year in Oakland — and had a dark mask around his neck, and police said they followed him when he appeared to , was looking for a victim late Friday night in Stockton.

But those statements about Brownlee made by McFadden and subsequent statements by San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar are “inflammatory,” according to Brownlee’s attorney, public defender Alison Nobert. On Monday, Nobert filed for a gag order that would prevent law enforcement from making further statements about the case to the media.

But how Bay City News reports, the judge in the case, Judge Shapuri Villapudua, denied Nobert’s motion, saying further statements from investigators or police, at least at this point, were unlikely to prejudice the jury given how far along the trial could be. Deputy District Attorney Alton Grau argued that the gag order would hinder investigators at this stage.

“We’re at a very early stage here, as Mr. Grau pointed out, we’re still a year or more away from trial,” Villapudua told the Bay City News. “We’re also in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, and it’s very likely that this case won’t have the kind of coverage it’s currently generating.”

It looks optimistic, but there will be no gag order just yet.

After the ruling, Judge Villapudua reportedly said, “My ruling does not interfere [defense] from seeking a protective order in the future if she feels the need arises.”

Brownlee was previously charged last week and is expected back in court to enter a plea on Nov. 14. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, and more charges are pending.

It also turns out that Brownlee worked as an interstate truck driver—he had a curious arrest on his record from 2019 that involved failing to stop at the border crossing in Arizona, so that explains that. It remains possible that unsolved murders in other jurisdictions Brownlee passed through could be linked to him.

As far as we know, investigators believe Brownlee’s first victim was 39-year-old Juan Vazquez Serrano, who was killed not far from Brownlee’s childhood home in Oakland on April 10, 2021. Homeless woman Natasha Latour, 46, the only surviving victim, was shot dead in Stockton on April 16, 2021, six days after the Oakland murder.

The following victims were all killed in recent months, starting with Paul Yaw, 35, who was killed in Stockton on July 8, 2022; Salvador Debudie Jr., 43, killed Aug. 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who was shot on Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, killed on September 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, killed Sept. 27.

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