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Four now face charges in death of Manteca man

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POSTED June 29, 2013 2:07 a.m.

STOCKTON – An ongoing investigation into the murder of a Weatherbee Lake man has now yielded four arrests.

Two men charged with murdering a 51-year-old electrician over the weekend – 23-year-old Michael Roessler and 36-year-old Christopher Oliver – made their initial before San Joaquin County Superior Court judge Franklin Stephenson Friday afternoon. And according to Deputy District Attorney Janet Smith, a third man – 22-year-old James Wilson – is also being charged with murder.

Wilson was arrested by San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputies on Sunday night on charges of possessing illegal weapons, but did not appear before Stephenson to answer to the charges being lodged against him. As of Friday afternoon he was not listed as in custody on the Sheriff’s automated website.

Fernando Delgado, 21, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with accessory after the fact.

Investigators have yet to reveal what exactly they believe happened on Saturday when Michael Lawrence, a relatively new resident of the rural hamlet, was shot three times in front of the home that he rented on Williamson Road. What has been disclosed, however, is that Roessler was supposedly the triggerman and he struck Oliver twice with errant bullets during the exchange in the street.

Police arrested Roessler on Monday after he was discharged from the hospital. They believe he crashed his motorcycle through a fence on McKinley Avenue while fleeing the scene – breaking his collarbone in the process. Oliver was arrested on Wednesday when he too was discharged from the hospital for his wounds.

Deputies had suspected both men were involved, and stayed at the hospital until they were able to make an arrest.

Roessler was pushed into court Friday in a wheelchair with his right arm in a black sling – clutching a hospital bucket in his lap and grimacing at several points during the proceedings as he strained to read the copy of the complaint provided to him. His left hand was shackled to the wheelchair, and a pair of neon socks contrasted sharply even with the orange county jail scrubs that he wore during his appearance. In additional to premeditated murder, Roessler is being charged with conspiracy and the possession and discharge of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

With the exception of his left wrapped in hospital gauze, Oliver didn’t appear any worse for the wear and spoke to Stephenson through his privately-retained counsel. He also faces charges of murder and conspiracy.

According to Smith, the incident doesn’t appear to be gang-related and lacks the special circumstances to make it a death penalty case.

She said she couldn’t comment on Wilson’s custody status, adding that the different individual dates of arrest proves the fluidity and ongoing nature of the investigation.

“This wasn’t necessarily a bar fight, but a situation where words were exchanged outside of a bar,” Smith said. “Unfortunately one group just couldn’t let it go.”

Roessler and Oliver will continue to be held at the San Joaquin County Jail without bail, while Delgado had a bail amount of $50,000 set at the time of his arrest. Wilson’s status remains mysterious.

All four men are scheduled to appear in court together on Tuesday, July 2, in Department 35 at the San Joaquin County Superior Courthouse in Stockton at 8:30 a.m.

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