Brothers first gained national attention after the
July 6, 2003 death of his wife, Joanie (née Harper), his sons, Marques
and Marshall, his daughter, Lyndsey, and his mother-in-law, Earnestine
Harper. Although considered a suspect from the beginning, he was not
arrested until April 2004. Because of the high media attention
surrounding the case, his trial was postponed until February 2007.
During the trial, prosecutors emphasized Brothers'
past marriage difficulties. Joanie Harper previously divorced him in
2000, but the couple remarried in Las Vegas in 2003. Brothers was also
known to have extramarital affairs, and further compromised his case
by lying while on the witness stand.
On May 15, 2007, Brothers was convicted of the
murders after jurors viewed 1,100 exhibits and heard testimony from
137 witnesses. Brothers is believed to have used a .22-caliber gun and
"a stabbing weapon". His conviction carried the special circumstance
of multiple murder. The same jury recommended on May 29, 2007 that the
death penalty by lethal injection be imposed.
On September 27, 2007, the Court sentenced Brothers
to death. He was later placed into the custody of the California
Department of Corrections and placed on death row at San Quentin State
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- On
the same day convicted mass killer Vincent Brothers was publicly
denounced by his estranged daughter, Margaret Kern, a judge ruled the
death penalty for the once well-known vice principal.
During Brothers' Thursday morning sentencing in
Bakersfield, two defense motions were also denied in a Kern County
After the statements, the judge ruled that Brothers
would suffer the death penalty and pay restitution.
Brothers expressed no emotion as he was escorted
from the courtroom.
After the sentencing, ABC23's Leticia Juarez met
with Margaret Kern who reiterated that she would only see her father
one more time, at the day of his execution.
The day after the sentencing, prosecutor Lisa Green
discussed candidly about the confidence she had to have to take on the
case. She also talked about the mental preparedness prosecutors have
to go through in preparing for such a case.
Vincent Brothers Takes Stand In His Own Defense
Brothers Breaks Silence About Slain Family
April 24, 2007
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- It has been more than three
years since the Harper family was found slain inside their Southeast
In that time Vincent Brothers has never spoken
about the slayings or his whereabouts, but Tuesday afternoon Brothers
broke his silence and took the stand in his own defense.
“Joanie, Marques, Lyndsey, Marshall and Mrs.
Harper,” Brothers whispered on the stand.
One by one he tearfully read off the names of his
slain family members.
Before taking the stand late Tuesday afternoon
Judge Michael Bush advised Brothers he had the right to remain silent.
Despite the advice Brothers took the stand as both
a grieving husband and father. He recalled for the defense his July
2003 trip to Columbus, Ohio, to visit his brother Melvin. During the
visit Brothers said he made a couple calls home. He testified his
final conversation with his wife Joanie took place on the Fourth of
Brothers said during his Ohio visit he split his
time between his brothers Melvin and Troy.
In other testimony Vincent Brothers said he often
worked around the Harper home fixing and replacing things for
He said because he suffered from Valley Fever his
mother-in-law gave him rubber gloves and a mask to wear for
A glove tip containing Brothers’ DNA was found
underneath the upturned purse of Joanie Harper by investigators
shortly following the slayings. But, the defense has argued Vincent
Brothers’ DNA would be found in the Harper home since he used to live
there and he often did odd jobs around the house for Ernestine.
The prosecution believes Brothers drove
cross-country during the holiday weekend in order to kill his wife,
three children, and mother-in-law Ernestine.
The defense is expected to wrap up its questions
Wednesday, then it will be the prosecution’s turn to cross-examine
This is 46 year old Vincent Brothers, of
Vincent Brothers had a great job as the
vice-principal at the Fremont School, an adoring wife Joanie Harper,
and three beautiful children- 4 year old Marques, 23 month old
Lyndsey, and 6 week old Marshall. Seems like your average guy, right?
Wrong. What makes Vincent different is the fact that he savagely
murdered 5 members of his family, including his own innocent children,
in cold blood.
The relationship between Vincent and Joanie had not
been without it’s share of troubles. Joanie gave birth to Marques
Juwan in 1998 (Vincent was not present for his birth) and the two
married in 2000. Despite separating a month later, Joanie gave birth
to Lyndsey Michelle later that year (Vincent was again absent from the
The marriage was annulled in 2001, with Vincent
Brothers citing irreconcilable differences and Joanie citing fraud,
allegedly because at the time of marriage, she had no knowledge of
Vincent’s two previous marriages. Despite all the ups and downs,
friends and family members all agree that Joanie loved Vincent deeply
and was eager to for them to be a family, and they continued to have
an on and off relationship. Most people never knew about Vincent’s
Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, and those who did certainly never knew
the extent of his capabilities.
In January, 2003, Joanie and Vincent remarried, and
in May baby Marshall was born. Although Vincent had moved out of the
family’s home in April due to discord between he and his mother-in-law
Earnestine, he was present for Marshall’s birth and for a little
while, things seemed fine. On July 6, 2003, Joanie, her mother
Earnestine and the three children attended church services. Although
Vincent had left town 4 days prior to visit family in Ohio, it was a
special day, with Joanie showing off Marshall to church members for
the first time.
After morning services, the Harpers met up with
friends, including Joanie’s best friend Kelsey Spann, for lunch then
went home to rest until evening services. They never made those
After calls from friends and family went
unanswered, Kelsey decided to stop by the house. She hadn’t seen
Joanie since two days earlier and it was unlike Joanie to ignore her
calls. Although the house looked fine from the outside, Kelsey found
that the door wouldn’t open after she’d used her key to unlock it, so
she went around to the patio door and finding it unlocked, let herself
in. Her panicked call to 911 came in just after 7 a.m. and police
arrived within minutes to find a house of horror.
First, police found Earnestine. She had been shot
twice in the face at close range and was laying in the hallway near
her bedroom. In another bedroom, police found the bodies of Joanie and
the children, still laying in the same spots they had lain Sunday to
nap after church.
Joanie was found face-down on her bed, dead from
several bullet and stab wounds to her head, chest and back. Lyndsey
lay on her left side at the foot of the bed in her little blue dress.
She had been killed with a single gunshot wound to the back. Marques
was beside his mother on the bed and was covered by a sheet. Police
theorize that he awakened before the murders. He was found with his
eyes open and a gunshot wound to the right side of the head.
Authorities say he had been so frightened immediately before his
death, that he had bitten his right hand down to the bone.
Marshall was thought to be missing, but after a
search, he was found under a pillow near his mother. He had been shot
in the back, just as his sister had.
Police tracked down Vincent Brothers at his
mother’s home in North Carolina and broke the news about his family’s
murders. Although he was the only person suspected of the crime, he
had left for vacation four days prior to the murders and police
couldn’t immediately disprove this alibi.
However, a neighbor in Bakersfield reported seeing
Vincent near the Harper home around the time of the murders. Rental
records for the car Vincent rented in Ohio showed that he put 5,400
miles on it, which was more than enough to travel from Ohio to
California and back.
In addition, entomologist who examined the car
found bug parts from species only found west of the Rocky Mountains,
although Vincent maintained he had never left the eastern part of the
One of his alibis was a pair of store receipts for
items bought in North Caroline on the day of the murders. Upon
examination of those credit card receipts and store surveillance, it
was found that Vincent’s brother Melvin had been using Vincent’s card
and forging his signature. Initially, Melvin lied when confronted
about it, but later admitted that he had done so at Vincent’s urging.
The prosecution alleged that Vincent had carried on
several extramarital relationships and that his motive for the
killings was greed; Vincent had wanted to relieve himself of the
burden of supporting his growing family.
On May 15, 2007 Vincent Brothers was found guilty
of five counts of first degree murder and a special circumstance of
multiple murders and on September 27th he was sentenced to Death by
Lethal Injection by Judge Michael Bush.
Vincent E. Brothers
On Sunday July 6, 2003, Joanie Harper, her three
children and her mother, Earnestine Harper, attended Sunday morning
church service. It was the first time at church for six-week-old
Marshall Harper. After the service they went to dine at the Black
Angus before going home. They laid down to take a nap prior to
returning to church for the evening service. Joanie and her children
were in the rear bedroom while her mother was in another bedroom at
the other end of the house.
An intruder, armed with a .22-caliber pistol,
entered the house through the backyard and quietly moved to the rear
On Tuesday morning family friend, Kelsey Spann,
decided to check on her friend Joanie Harper and her family. She had
not heard from her in several days and feared something was wrong. She
went to a side door and inserted the key given to her by Joanie into
the lock. Something was blocking the door keeping her from pushing it
open. She walked around to the back of the house and tested the
sliding glass door. It was unlocked, something that was very unusual.
Kelsey entered the house and walked back to Joanie's bedroom.
A call was placed to 911 at 7 am. When the police
arrived at 901 3rd st, they witnessed the horrific scene that Kelsey
Spann had stumbled upon:
Joanie Harper - found face down on the bed. She had
been shot three times in the head and twice in the arm. She had also
been stabbed seven times.
Marshall Harper - the six-week old was found next
to his mother under a pillow. He had been shot in the back.
Marques Harper - the four-year-old was found on the
bed. He had a gunshot to the right side of his head and his eyes were
open. The fingertips of one of his hands had been bitten to the bone.
It was surmised that he had seen the killer and frightened he had
stuck his fingers in his mouth.
Lyndsey Harper - the two-year-old was found at the
foot of her mother's bed. She had been shot in the back.
Ernestine Harper - found in the hallway. She had
been shot twice in the face. The pistol she held when she confronted
the intruder was found lying next to her body.
Almost immediately after the murders were
discovered, suspicion fell on the estranged husband of Joanie Harper,
Vincent E. Brothers. He was arrested nine months later and charged
with five counts of first-degree murder.
Vincent Brothers was well-known and well-liked in
the Bakersfield, CA community. He was respected as a mentor and a
Christian family man. Brothers has a bachelor's degree from Norfolk
State University and a master's degree in education from California
State University - Bakersfield. He began his career as a substitute
teacher in 1987 and eventually became the vice-principal of Fremont
Elementary School in 1995.
The trial began on February 22, 2007. Brothers
pleaded not guilty and claimed that he was in Ohio visiting his
brother at the time of the murders. A brother he had not seen in ten
According to the prosecution, Brothers was an
admitted adulterer, who never loved his family and used murder as a
means to rid himself of the financial burden his family placed on him.
They claimed that on July 2, 2003 he flew to Ohio to visit his brother
in order to establish an alibi. When he touched down in Ohio he rented
a Dodge Neon from Dollar Rent-A-Car. Detectives seized the rental car
and alleged that the records proved that while the car was in his
possession, Brothers put more that 5,400 miles on the car. More than
enough mileage for him to have driven to Bakersfield and back.
Prosecutors contended that Brother's drove approximately 4,500 miles
in three days.
The radiator and air filter was taken to the Bohart
Museum of Entomology for testing. Prof. Lynn Kimsey from the
University of California - Davis took the stand and testified that she
found several insect species in the car parts that were found only in
the west and that the types of insects found indicated that the car
had only been driven at night.
The prosecution introduced video evidence that
proved that Vincent's brother, Melvin, used his credit card at
Wal-mart. Melvin also admitted to forging his brother's signature and
that he had no knowledge of his brother's whereabouts between July 4th
through July 7th. Evidence showed that a call was placed to Brother's
cell phone in Ohio around 4 pm on the day of the murder from the
The defense claimed that the extra marital affairs
did not a murderer make and were being used to discredit his
character. They claim that cell phone records placed Brother's in Ohio
at the time of the murders and that he had also been involved in a
minor traffic accident when a boy on a bike darted out in the street
and ran into Brother's car. Also there was no video evidence of
Brother's in over 100 gas stations and mini marts between Ohio and
California. The murder weapon was never found. Brother's took the
stand in his on defense and claimed that he had also spent time
driving around with his other brother, Troy, which was why Melvin did
not know where he was from the 4th through the 7th.
Troy Brother's was subpoenaed to testify for the
defense but he disappeared. A $100,000 arrest warrant was issued.
Columbus police tracked down the man who was actually involved in the
traffic accident with the boy on the bike and he testified in court.
On May 15, 2007, the jury found Vincent E. Brothers
guilty of five counts of first-degree murder and on September 27, 2007
he was sentenced to death.
During the sentencing hearing the family members
were allowed to read statements, including an emotion packed statement
delivered by his only surviving child, Margaret Kern-Brothers. She
said that she was resigning from the Brother's family and after she
walked out of the courtroom she would be known as Margaret Kern. She
went on to state "I am leaving my name with him. I don't have a father
now. He is just a man handcuffed to a chair, looking straight ahead.
He will never see me again, until it's time to die.