Family Slay Suspect Heads Back to California

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Vincent Brothers (search), the sole suspect in the slayings of his wife, three children and mother-in-law, was headed back to California Friday to prepare for the funerals of his five family members, his lawyer said.

"He returns to Bakersfield as a grieving father, husband and son-in-law," Brothers' lawyer, Curtis Floyd, said earlier in the day, reading from a prepared statement in Elizabeth City, N.C. (search), where Brothers had been visiting his mother.

"Mr. Brothers and the Bakersfield community, along with all of us who knew Earnestine, Joanie, Marques, Lyndsey, and Marshall have suffered a devastating loss."

Brothers, 41, is the estranged husband of Joanie Harper and the father of their three children, Marques Harper, 4, Lyndsey Harper, 23 months, and Marshall Harper, 1 month, all of whom were found shot to death on Tuesday. Also fatally shot was Joanie Harper's mother, Earnestine Harper.

"Mr. Brothers' main priority at the current time is to make funeral arrangements for his family and to bid farewell to his loved ones," Floyd said. "Mr. Brothers requests time and space as he goes through this grieving process."

A memorial service for the five victims was scheduled for Friday evening in Bakersfield.

Brothers caught a flight out of Norfolk, Va., and was believed to be flying to Atlanta, where he was expected to catch a flight to Los Angeles.

His arm was in a cast as he rode an escalator toward the gate at the Norfolk airport. There was no immediate explanation for the cast.

The investigation into the slayings expanded to Ohio Friday morning when two Bakersfield detectives arrived and asked Columbus police to guide them to several undisclosed locations.

It was not immediately clear what the police hoped to find, though they have said information from Ohio helped convince them to release Brothers, who was arrested Wednesday in North Carolina after turning himself in to authorities. He was released hours later because Bakersfield police said they did not have enough evidence to seek a formal arrest warrant.

Bakersfield police have not elaborated on the Ohio connection and on Friday declined comment. They were still seeking the murder weapon and have searched the Bakersfield apartment and storage unit of Brothers, an elementary school vice principal.

"They're not even telling us what they're looking at," Columbus Division of Police spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio said. "They showed up and asked to be taken to several locations."

She said she had no further details.

According to an affidavit made public Thursday, authorities were searching for a .22-caliber gun and a "stabbing weapon."

The affidavit accompanied a warrant that police sought to search a Bakersfield apartment and storage unit belonging to Brothers. They obtained the search warrant Tuesday, less than two hours after they found the five bodies. He had been living apart from his wife and children at the time of the killings.

Autopsies of the victims showed they died from gunshot wounds, but the search warrant said "evidence at the crime scene ... indicates that a stabbing weapon was used."

Although police seized a computer from the storage unit, no murder weapons, blood evidence or clothing that may be linked to the crime scene were found, the documents state.

According to the affidavit, after hearing of the killings, Brothers contacted his school district, but never contacted police.

Police said that behavior and Brothers' failure to provide an alibi were aspects that led to his arrest, but they acknowledged they had moved too fast.

"I have asked them (detectives) to take a step back and slow it down a bit," Bakersfield Police Chief Eric Matlock (search) said Thursday. "It does not mean we are pursuing other leads than we were before. We just want to do this right. ... We will be meticulous, methodical and relentless in our investigation."

Bakersfield Police Capt. Neil Mahan said the decision to release Brothers was based in part on information obtained from Ohio, but would not elaborate.

Brothers is under no travel restrictions and does not have to return to Bakersfield while detectives continue their investigation.

"As far as that's concerned, if he wanted to board a plane to Costa Rica today, he could," said Frank Parrish (search), a district attorney in North Carolina whose authority covers Elizabeth City.

Mahan would not say whether Brothers was under surveillance. He said Brothers is still considered the only "potential suspect." Mahan has said Brothers could be rearrested, but he acknowledged police were also trying to determine whether anyone else would have had a motive for the killings.

Elizabeth City detective Robin Vanscoy said that while Brothers was voluntarily waiting for Bakersfield police to arrive at the jail on Wednesday, he allowed police there to swab a DNA sample from the inside of his mouth. Investigators also gathered evidence from the home of Brothers' mother in Elizabeth City, Vanscoy said.

After a brief marriage, Joanie Harper and Brothers were granted an annulment in September 2001 and Harper was given sole custody of Marques and Lyndsey, court records show. But they remarried on Jan. 25 of this year in Las Vegas, according to Clark County, Nevada records.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.