LANCASTER – Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the discovery of a dead man inside a truck on Sunday who may have been the suspect wanted in the murder of three people in Palmdale, a lieutenant said.
The body was discovered around 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, in a truck near the intersection of 250th Street East and Avenue G in Lancaster, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The name of the deceased was withheld pending notification of kin. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy.
However, Lancaster station Lt. Dan Nagelmann told City News Service it appears the dead man was James “Todd” Brown, 54, the suspect wanted in the killings of three family members and dogs inside the victims’ Palmdale home on Jan. 13.
“The man has not been positively identified but it appears that he was the suspect wanted in those murders,” Nagelmann said.
Brown “lived on the victims’ property in a trailer for approximately two years while doing odd jobs for the victims, as well as in town,” according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“It appears that the suspect and victims got into a dispute that escalated to murder,” according to a sheriff’s department statement.
The bodies of 52-year-old Richard Gardner III, his father, 78-year-old Richard Gardner II, and his father’s wife, 56-year-old Pepper Gardner, were discovered Jan. 13 in the 1100 block of West Avenue N-12 in Palmdale, according to the sheriff’s department.
“The three victims were stabbed, suffocated and beaten to death in their home,” officials said. “Their dogs were also found beaten to death.”
A family member asked for a welfare check of the home and upon entering the residence, deputies found the body of a man, then two more victims in another room.
Brown, who had initially been called a person of interest in the case, is white, 6 feet tall, weighs 265 pounds and has brownish gray hair and brown eyes. He might be driving a silver 2002 Toyota pickup truck with a camper shell and the California license plate 42198C1.
“Detectives have confirmed the vehicle is registered to Mr. Brown,” officials said. “Neighbors, family and friends have informed detectives that it is the vehicle Mr. Brown typically drives.”
Brown has family members and friends who live in the Inland Empire and Antelope Valley, according to the sheriff’s department.
The change of Brown’s status from person of interest to wanted suspect came as a vigil was held Jan. 24 for Richard Gardner III, a deliveryman who was well-regarded in the community.
Anyone with any information that could help investigators should call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.
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