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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Man Wanted in Murder of Family Turns Himself In

Aired July 9, 2003 - 19:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to move on now to another tragic story this hour. Seems like the last couple days there have been nothing but tragedies, doesn't it?
Vincent Brothers, a man who California cops yesterday called a likely suspect in the brutal killings of his estranged wife, her mother and three children, well, he is under arrest in North Carolina. The arrest is on probable cause for five counts of homicide.

Jennifer Caggiola has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER CAGGIOLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Carolina authorities have arrested a California man in the deaths of five of his family members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Brothers has retained counsel. Has refused to give a statement. And as a result of additional information through this ongoing investigation, we developed probable cause to arrest Mr. Brothers.

CAGGIOLA: Police say Brothers, the vice principal of Fremont Elementary School in Bakersfield, turned himself in to the North Carolina police department Tuesday night requesting to talk to authorities after reportedly learning of the shooting.

Tuesday morning a family friend checking in on her neighbors discovered the bodies of Joni Harper, Brothers' recently estranged wife, her mother and three children, aged 4 years to 6 weeks. According to local officials, the last time they had been seen was Sunday at church.

CHIEF ERIC MATLOCK, BAKERSFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT: They were very loved in the community, and in my 33 years of experience with this department, this is the most serious crime that we have ever experienced.

CAGGIOLA: Brothers' blue pick-up was found Tuesday afternoon at the California airport, but investigators report the car may have been there for over a week. Mr. Brothers will make his first court appearance tomorrow in North Carolina.

Jennifer Caggiola, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, more on this story now. Police in North Carolina say Vincent Brothers seemed distraught over the situation. Those were their words, distraught over the situation when he turned himself in.

People who know him are having a lot of trouble comparing the man and elementary vice principal respected in the community to this crime.

Junea Davis joins me now from Bakersfield. She's a friend of Vincent Brothers and estranged wife, Joni Harper, one of the victims.

Junea, thank you very much for being with us. First I've got to ask you, last couple hours we just got word that he has now been arrested. What are you thinking?

JUNEA DAVIS, BROTHERS' FRIEND: I'm still thinking that for Joni's sake he had nothing to do with it. For me the last time I seen them together they were happy. I don't understand this.

COOPER: You say you think he had nothing to do with this. You say this based on -- I mean, you've known this man for, what, like 16 years?

DAVIS: Yes. I've known him for 16 years, and I went to Cal State with him and this was something out of his character as far as now. Anything that happened years ago we've all just matured and Vincent was a real productive person in our community. The kids liked him. He had a good rapport. I don't understand what would cause this to happen.

COOPER: You refer to what might have happened a couple years ago. I think you're referring to he had been married before. I think at one point had some charges brought against him by his wife then.

DAVIS: Right.

COOPER: They got divorced. She accused him, saying that he had at one point threatened to kill her. But you say now he's a respected man in the community and you don't believe he's guilty, do you?

DAVIS: At this point no. You have to show me because everything -- you know, even talking to Joni the last time that I talked to her, she was happy. And I went over to her house and seen the baby and he was there. And my kids played with her kids. There was no sign of anything that would be out of the norm or just being happy that a newborn was at home.

COOPER: And you were friends with Joni, his wife, as well, became friends with her through friends with him.

DAVIS: Right.

COOPER: What was their relationship like? Because I understand they got married I think it was back in 2000. They were married for something like two weeks and then got separated and then I guess they were sort of patching things on and off over the last couple years. Was their relationship difficult and were there arguments? What do you know?

DAVIS: Not that I know of. When Joni and me came into town four years ago, as far as I knew everything was fine. Just this January they renewed their vows. They had the little Marshal (ph) and they were going on.

So I think everything was fine between them, as far as I knew. She never expressed anything but love for her family, her mother, her husband and her kids.

COOPER: I mean it's a tragedy no matter how you look at it, no matter what results happen.

DAVIS: Yes, it is.

COOPER: Junea Davis, appreciate you joining us. As you know, Junea, there's still a lot more questions people need answers to. I mean, apparently Mr. Brothers' truck was found at the airport, but it was found, they say, July 2, a couple days before this family was killed.

So there are a lot of questions still to be answered at this point. This man is in custody in North Carolina, has been arrested and we're just going to have to follow this thing very closely. Junea Davis, again, thanks for being with us.

DAVIS: OK.

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