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Suspect released in California family slayings

Police cite 'new information,' lack of evidence

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Vincent Brothers, shown in this recent DMV photo, has been released by police.

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Shootings in Mississippi and California leave 11 people dead. CNN's Jennifer Coggiola reports.
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BAKERSFIELD, California (CNN) -- Hours after arresting the primary suspect in the deaths of a family of five, police Wednesday released Vincent Brothers because of a lack of evidence as well as "new information," according to Capt. Neil Mahan of Bakersfield Police.

Brothers, 41, was arrested Tuesday night in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on probable cause for five counts of homicide in connection with the deaths of his estranged wife, mother-in-law and three children, who were all found shot to death Tuesday in California, according to police.

"Part of the reason we made that probable cause arrest is because information that we had at the time was sufficient enough to do that," Mahan told reporters late Wednesday. "We have conferred with the district attorney's office, we have new information, and this, again, is the best decision we think at this time."

Mahan said there were no other suspects, and police could still rearrest Brothers.

"We're going to be following up leads in another state, not North Carolina. We have additional leads that came in today."

Brothers turned himself in to Elizabeth City police after news broke about the killings in California, authorities said. He was in that city visiting his mother, officials said.

Police from Bakersfield traveled across the country Wednesday to interview Brothers.

The bodies of Joanie Harper, 39, her mother, Earnestine Harper, 70, and three children -- Marques Harper, 4; Lindsey Harper, 23 months; and Marshall Harper, about 6 weeks old -- were found early Tuesday at their Bakersfield home by a concerned family friend who hadn't seen them in a couple of days, officials said.

The Coroner Division of the Kern County Sheriff's Department said all died of gunshot wounds.

Brothers is the vice principal of Fremont Elementary School in Bakersfield. Bakersfield Police spokeswoman Detective Mary DeGeare said friends and family members told authorities that Brothers and Joanie Harper were married, had divorced, and had remarried, although they still lived separately. Family and friends said Brothers was the father of all three children, Mahan said.

Harper and her mother, both described as very religious, and all three children were last seen alive Sunday at a morning church service, said Mahan.

Mahan said some search warrants had been served in California, and another was being sought in North Carolina.

He said police do not have the murder weapon, and there are no records of a weapon being registered to Brothers.


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