TERRELL, Texas (AP) – Fear and confusion gripped a rural North Texas community for several hours until an early-morning arrest Tuesday, as investigators sought desperately to stop a series of attacks that left five people dead, including the suspect’s mother.
Charles Everett Brownlow Jr. was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after running into the woods following a high-speed chase, authorities said. Terrell police Chief Jody Lay said he thinks Brownlow might have attacked others if an off-duty officer hadn’t spotted his car.
Brownlow, 36, was being held on one preliminary count each of capital murder and evading arrest, although additional charges were expected. Prosecutors referred calls to the police in Terrell, which is about 30 miles east of Dallas.
“We’re all in a state of shock,” Lay said at a news conference hours after Brownlow’s arrest. “You have a tendency to think, `How can that happen here?’ This is a country community, a rural community, people are real close. This is going to be, it’s going to have a really big impact on us.”
Lay declined to discuss a possible motive. He identified the victims as Brownlow’s mother, Mary Brownlow, 61; his aunt, Belinda Walker, 55; Jason Michael Wooden, 33; Kelleye Lynnette Sluder, 30; and Luis Gerardo Leal-Carrillo, 22. Lay said that Brownlow “hung out occasionally” with Wooden and Sluder. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he knew Leal-Carrillo.
Brownlow’s brother, Terrence Walker, said Brownlow struggled with drug addiction and “always wanted to take something that wasn’t his.” He said Brownlow had been living at their mother’s home and that she continued to look after him.
“I was hoping my mom would open her eyes and realize that she needed to let him grow up, put him out,” said Walker. He said his own family spent the night at a hotel instead of their home in Forney, and that he was armed with a pistol in case his brother came after him.
Brownlow’s criminal record dates back to 1995 and includes convictions for drug possession, burglary and assaulting a family member in 2011. Records indicate Brownlow was accused of striking a woman he had a relationship with. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was paroled after seven months.
The attacks began around 5 p.m. at the home of Belinda and Robert Walker. He said he arrived home to find his wife lying on the floor of his 15-year-old son’s room.
“I just went in calling my wife’s name and she never did answer,” Robert Walker said.
About 30 minutes later, fire units responded to a blaze at Mary Brownlow’s house a few blocks away. When the fire was extinguished, crews found her body in the smoldering wreckage. Lay said it was clearly arson.
At about 10:30 p.m., police responded to a report of a shooting at another home and found Wooden and Sluder dead. A 3-year-old boy in the home was unharmed and was released to relatives.
Tesla Savell, who lives across the street from the home where the two bodies were found, said worried friends sent her text messages as the slayings continued Monday night.
“It hits close to home,” Savell said of the killings of the couple, whom she described as a “sweet family.”
By this point, authorities had a description of the stolen vehicle Charles Brownlow was believed to be driving. An off-duty police officer saw that vehicle parked outside a convenience store at 10:37 p.m. As the officer called in the sighting, the suspect ran from the store, jumped in the vehicle and sped away, Lay said.
A high-speed police chase ensued. Charles Brownlow wrecked the car and took off on foot into thick woods, dropping a holster or handgun on the way, the chief said.
A police helicopter and dogs were summoned to assist in the manhunt, and Brownlow was found hiding in a creek.
Lay said Brownlow appeared to be intoxicated “on some sort of substance” when he was arrested.
The fifth victim, Leal-Carrillo, was a clerk at the convenience store. The store’s owner, Ali Karimi, said he was a model employee and a “beautiful young man” who had a 1-year-old son.
Associated Press writers Diana Heidgerd in Dallas and Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.
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