The tendency with serial-killer and mass-shooter cases alike is always to want to immediately try to psychoanalyze the suspect and get to the bottom of their motives. The answers are rarely satisfying, but with the Stockton serial killer suspect, Wesley Brownlee, this has already begun.
Brownlee was arrested early Saturday after being surveilled for some number of days by Stockton police. He was seen stalking some areas of the city in his car, allegedly "hunting" for a new victim. We quickly learned that he had a record of drug arrests and had done some time, and that all of the Stockton killings and the one in Oakland last year took place short distances from where he lived, or where relatives lived.
Bay Area News Group took a deeper dive into Brownlee's past, and his probation and court records, and found that he was born in San Francisco and raised primarily in an apartment on Seminary Avenue in Oakland — six blocks from where his first known victim, Juan Vasquez Serrano, was found in April 2021. It's not clear which of Brownlee's relatives, if any, were still living in the area last year, but Bay Area News Group found that Brownlee followed his mother to Stockton, after she moved there in the late 1990s.
Court records from the 90s show that Brownlee's brushes with the law began in 1994, just shy of his 15th birthday, when he and two friends were accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl. He denied the accusation, blaming his friends, and his mother reportedly stood by him at the time.
Brownlee apparently became "very distressed," according to a probation officer at a later date, following the October 1995 shooting death of his brother Dale Brownlee, who was 17 at the time. The brother was shot on the 5700 block of East 16th Street in an apparent drug-related incident, according to police.
Brownlee would be diagnosed with a learning disability, he dropped out of high school in his junior year, and he would be arrested twice for selling crack cocaine in his Oakland neighborhood within a few years. A probation officer noted that he "apparently suffers both innate mental limitation and psychological stress over his brother’s 1995 shooting death." And, as Bay Area News Group reports, a juvenile court officer later noted, after he was put on house arrest, that his mother suffered from a chronic pain condition and "didn't notice" when he snuck out of the house.
There's a lull in Brownlee's criminal record between the early 2000s, after he was released from a two-year stint in San Quentin, and 2009, when he was arrested for a DUI, per the Sacramento Bee. And then in 2014, he was again arrested in his old neighborhood in Oakland for selling narcotics — about a block away from where his brother was killed 19 years earlier. There was an unspecified felony case in 2017 in San Joaquin County for which online records aren't available. And then in 2019, in a somewhat sketchy detail, Brownlee was detained at a border crossing in Arizona for failing to stop at a port of entry.
We also know he had two traffic infractions in the last year and a half, the most recent in June.
What drove Brownlee to kill five Latino men and one other man, several of them homeless at the time, may only be revealed if he confesses.
Stockton police chief Stanley McFadden noted on Monday, per ABC News, that Brownlee was methodical in his killings and in covering his tracks. "He didn't make many mistakes. We know he purposely stayed in the dark," McFadden said.
He is set to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.
Update: Brownlee has been charged in three out of the six killings he was linked to, and he's been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.