July 6th, 2003. Joanie Harper had a good Sunday by all accounts. She had spent it at church with her family, her mother and kids: Marques (4), Lyndsey (2), and Marshall (6 weeks). Joanie and her mother Earnestine decided to take the family out to eat afterwards. Once back at Joanie’s house the family decided to rest up a bit before heading back out.
Now imagine resting in bed, beginning to drift off to sleep when suddenly you hear a bang. Then another and another. You didn’t hear them but an intruder with a gun has entered the home. Moans and screams are heard throughout the house. The gunman approaches your body, paralyzed with fear. Brings the gun up, aims and fires. The horrific events described may have been Joanie’s or one of her family members final moments. Often times while in bed, we are at our most vulnerable and a gunman exploited that vulnerability to systematically kill each one of the family members within Joanie’s Bakersfield home. There were 5 victims throughout the house, those described at the beginning of the story; 3 children, a young mother, and a grandmother.
Who would commit such a heinous crime? Who would be able to muster up the will to murder one person let alone 5? This was the very question police were asking themselves on July 8th, 2003, 2 days after the gruesome murders. A friend of Joanie’s came over to check on her, as she had not heard from her in some time. Shortly after entering the home, she stumbled across the bloody crime scene and called law enforcement immediately. All of the victims had been shot. Joanie however, in addition to being shot was stabbed multiple times. A sign that this was personal and that she was the main target for the anger and rage of the killer. Earnestine was found with her pistol at her side, attempting to stop the perpetrator before he could continue killing.
After looking at the crime scene. The lack of motive by others, the lack of stolen property and ruling out other types of crime, one name was beginning to make it’s rounds; Vincent Brothers. Vincent was the estranged husband of Joanie, father to the 3 children and was also well known throughout his community in Bakersfield as a responsible and determined educator. He started as a substitute teacher and was able to climb the ranks all the way to vice-principal. Joanie and Vincent began dating and had their first child in 1998. The two wed in 2000 but were divorced a year later. After the divorce, the couple continued to see each other on and off again. Despite the problems, the two decided to give it another go and in January of 2003, wed in Las Vegas. Things started out promising but after 3 months, in April, Vincent moved out due to bickering at home. After moving out the relationship remained in a rocky state and patches were never mended.
Throughout the investigation, no new suspects emerged and the prime suspect had, at first glance, an ironclad alibi. Vincent claimed that during the murder he was over 2200 miles away in Ohio. There is no possible way Vincent could have committed the crime in such a short amount of time. He was only in Ohio for a few days visiting his brothers and spent all of his time with them before heading to North Carolina. Data pulled from Vincent’s credit cards and cell phone supported his story. Things were looking bleak for authorities but thankfully they did their due diligence and did not simply take a “grieving husbands” word for it.
It was soon discovered that Vincent had rented a car. After checking the odometer after returning the vehicle to the rental company, it was found that Vincent had travelled over 5,000 miles. More then enough to travel to Bakersfield and back. Police decided to inspect the vehicle to see if there was any evidence left behind. What they discovered while thoroughly searching the car were insects. Nothing odd about that. However what was odd was that it directly contradicted his story. It was a species of insect only found in Colorado, meaning it could have only been attached to the grill by Vincent while driving through the region.
In regards to credit card records, police started visiting some of the places of business and after checking security footage, it was found to be Vincent’s brother making the purchases. As for the phone calls being made, claims were made that Vincent left his cell phone with his family in Ohio and instructed them to make calls at different interviews to help strengthen his alibi. Vincent’s credibility dropped dramatically and he was taken into custody months later on April 30th, 2004. Vincent never wavered on his claims of innocence and remained that way when he entered a plea of not guilty at the trial start on February 22, 2007. Throughout the trial both sides made good arguments but the overwhelming circumstantial evidence and lies perpetrated by the defendant made it clear to the jury. Despite their being no murder weapon and an argument could be had that Vincent was out of state, the prosecution proved that he was able to commit the murder. In addition, a detail that could have easily swayed the jury was Vincent’s demeanor. For a man who lost his family, he appeared incredibly cold and unmoved by the ordeal, remaining stone faced throughout the trial. Vincent Edward Brothers was found guilty and charged with five counts of first-degree murder, and his sentence would be the death penalty.
During the sentencing family members were allowed to speak directly to the convicted Vincent Brothers. Among them was his last surviving daughter, Margaret. She disowned her father as well as her name and vowed to only come back into his life when he was being ready to serve out the last part of his sentence. After the trial Brothers would make his way to San Quentin prison where he will most likely live out the rest of his days.