Marcus Delon Wesson
(born August 22, 1946) is an American man convicted of nine counts of first-degree
murder and 14 sex crimes, including the rape and molestation of his
underage daughters. All of his victims were his own children, fathered
by incestuous relationships with his daughters and nieces, as well as
the children by his wife. It is to date Fresno, California's worst mass
After a March 12, 2004
standoff with police over a child custody issue, the nine bodies were
discovered in a bedroom filled with antique coffins, each victim having
been shot through the eye.
At his trial, Wesson
offered as defense that his 25-year-old daughter Sebhrenah, whose
18-month-old son Marshey (Wesson's own son and grandson) was
killed as well, had herself committed the murders, and then subsequently
committed suicide. The murder weapon, a .22 caliber handgun was found
with her body, and Sebhrenah's DNA was found on the gun, which lent
credence to Wesson's claim.
Many potential jurors
were excused from the trial after claiming to be 'terrified' to be in
the same room with Wesson.
Wesson was convicted
of nine counts of first-degree murder on June 17, 2005, and also found
guilty on 14 counts of forcible sexual assault and the sexual
molestation of seven of his own underage daughters and nieces. Wesson
was sentenced to the death penalty on June 27, 2005.
Marcus Delon Wesson (born August 22, 1946) is
a man convicted of nine counts of first-degree murder and 14 sex crimes,
including the rape and molestation of his underage daughters. His
victims were his own children, fathered by incestuous relationships with
his daughters and nieces, as well as the children by his wife. He has
been described as Fresno's worst mass murderer.
Prior to March 12, 2004, Wesson had declared his
intention to relocate his daughters and their children to Washington
state, where Wesson's parents lived. On March 12, 2004, several members
of Wesson's extended family, along with two daughters who rebelled
against Wesson, converged on his family compound demanding the release
of Wesson's other children.
Fresno police were summoned to what was described as
a child custody issue, and a standoff ensued. During the course of the
standoff, Wesson, who at first appeared cooperative to the police, was
permitted to step away and go back into his house. Fresno police
testified they did not hear gunshots being fired shortly after, though
other witnesses present at the standoff testified they did hear gunshots
fired at that time.
In the aftermath, nine bodies of Wesson's daughters
and their children were discovered in a bedroom filled with antique
coffins. Each victim had been shot through the eye. Authorities,
relatives and public records suggest he has fathered up to 18 children
with seven women. Wesson's other children, who were not present inside
the house, survived the incident.
At his trial, Wesson, represented by public defenders
Peter Jones and Ralph Torres, presented the defense that his 25-year-old
daughter Sebhrenah, whose 18-month-old son Marshey (Wesson's own son
and grandson) was killed as well, had herself committed the murders,
and then subsequently committed suicide. The murder weapon, a .22
caliber handgun, was found with her body, and Sebhrenah's DNA was found
on the gun, which lent credence to Wesson's claim.
The jury declined to find that Wesson fired the fatal
shots, but convicted him of murder anyway, presumably finding that he
had persuaded his children to enter into a suicide pact.
Conviction and sentence
Wesson was convicted of nine counts of first-degree
murder on June 17, 2005, and also found guilty on 14 counts of forcible
sexual assault and the sexual molestation of seven of his daughters and
nieces. Wesson was sentenced to death on June 27, 2005.
9 dead in Fresno home
Bodies of seven children age 8 and younger are
discovered after Marcus Wesson, 57, surrenders and is arrested after a
Saturday, March 13, 2004
At a small home near Roeding Park where authorities
found a stack of nine bodies in one room and 10 caskets in another,
Fresno police on Friday arrested a man suspected of fathering some of
the victims and murdering them all.
Police arrested Marcus Wesson, 57, on suspicion of
homicide after a two-hour standoff in an established neighborhood near
Olive Avenue and Golden State Boulevard.
Authorities relayed a twisted scene of death at the
house, with the bodies of young women and small children intertwined
with clothing and stacked together in a back bedroom.
The bodies were so entangled that it took hours for police to confirm
the number of dead. Police Chief Jerry Dyer said: "There may have been
some kind of ritual involved, but we have to make that determination."
In a scene that began shortly after 10 p.m. and was
expected to continue into the early morning, authorities began removing
the bodies of two women and seven children, including infants. Some
bodies were so small that they were carried out in white body bags,
cradled in the arms of officials.
The majority of victims were female - one in her 20s,
one about 17 and children ranging from 1 to 8. Authorities did not
release the identities of the victims or causes of death. They did not
know whether they were killed in the house or elsewhere. Police believed
Wesson had blood on his shirt when he surrendered.
A man who identified himself only as Mike and who
said he was Wesson's brother-in-law said Wesson "thought he was God."
Police acknowledged that they were investigating a
possible cult angle.
Several neighbors reported hearing gunshots. One
police officer said some of the victims appeared to have been shot.
Police responded to a child-custody dispute at the home at 761 W.
Hammond Ave. about 2:30 p.m. Two women told officers they had given
custody of their children to Wesson and wanted them back. Wesson
Other women have said they left their children in
Wesson's custody, authorities said.
Neighbor Linda Morales, 44, said she heard two to
three gunshots, followed by screaming, between 2:30 and 3 p.m. Friday.
"I started shaking because I have two girls at home
with me," she said. "I just got a jingling in me. It could have been my
girls. It's just too close."
When police arrived, Wesson ran into the house and
locked himself inside. Authorities called in the SWAT team and, after
about two hours, Wesson walked outside and surrendered.
Distraught at the news, some relatives of the dead
collapsed near the house. At least one woman was taken away by ambulance.
Dyer said later that four women who gathered outside the house were the
mothers of some of the victims and Wesson was the father.
Dozens of people gathered outside the house during
the afternoon and into the evening. A young man who identified himself
only as a relative of a victim leaned against a brick wall, not far from
the police tape blocking the house. Head bowed and crying, he ignored
questions and attempted to get into a parked, green Chevrolet Cavalier.
Another man had to help him into the car. They did not drive away, but
sat in the car.
Another man, standing about 15 feet from the young
man, also identified himself only as a family member of the victims. He
said: "Nobody is going to be talking about this. Right now, everybody is
He cried as he spoke.
The bodies were found in a roughly 1,000-square-foot,
one-story home built in 1966. State property records show the house was
sold to Rosa Solorio last September for $100,000. Neighbors said Wesson
moved in about six to eight months ago.
Police said they found 10 unused caskets in a front
room of the house. A friend of Wesson's children said they had been in
the home for a long time; a relative said Wesson intended to use the
wood for furniture. Lawyer Frank Muna said he saw the caskets in an
antique shop several years ago. They were unique, he said, hand-carved
in rich wood and larger than normal. The shop owner told Muna he sold
them to Wesson, who had purchased property from Muna a few years ago.
Muna said he always saw several women with Wesson,
but the relationships were unclear. He also didn't know what Wesson did
for a living, but he said the man had the same school bus at the time he
knew him. That school bus was parked alongside the Hammond house Friday
evening. Neighbors said they saw and heard Wesson in the bus only after
sunset and well past midnight. Sometimes children would hold a
flashlight so that he could work; one neighbor said he thought there was
a whirlpool spa in the bus.
Neighbor Christina Morales, 22, said she saw three
adult women who wore black dresses working on the bus with Wesson. If
they walked away, she said, he would pull them back by their shoulders
Mike, the man who identified himself as Wesson's
brother-in-law, said Wesson was a Vietnam veteran originally from San
Kenny Isaac, 35, who has lived in the neighborhood
for 13 years, described the home's residents - including up to six women
- as "weird."
"I only saw the older women," he said. "They would
drive by, and they would glance down. They did not want to look at you."
One neighbor said the women typically wore black
skirts, white or gray blouses and black, high-heeled shoes.
Lupa Montejano, 38, and Laticia Juarez, 24, live on
Hammond Avenue. Juarez said: "They were quiet people. You wouldn't
expect this to happen."
Barbara Alec, 61, who lives near the house, said she
noticed people arriving for what seemed to be a gathering at the house
Friday afternoon. She then heard a woman yell from the direction of the
house: "It wasn't supposed to happen this way."
She also said residents of the home cooked something
with a particularly foul odor two or three times a week: "It smelled
real ugly. Everybody complained, but we never thought anything about it."
Alec said she was shaken by the killings: "I'm so
After 9 p.m., police were beginning a search of the
home and also were planning to search the school bus. At 10:30 p.m.,
coroners began to wheel bodies out on gurneys.
Investigators waited several hours before beginning a
close examination of the house and the bus. The delay allowed
authorities to get the proper search warrants.
Police closed off about a square quarter-mile around
the house during the standoff. Traffic was snarled on Olive Avenue. The
area was sealed off until about 6:30 p.m.
After the streets reopened, people started gathering
and milling on the street. Yellow police tape circled roughly 200 feet
around the house.
The police planned to work through the night,
gathering evidence. There were still bodies inside the house as of
midnight, and Dyer said it would probably take another three hours
before all bodies were removed.
Mayor Alan Autry arrived just before 11:30 p.m.,
telling reporters: "This is obviously a terrible, horrific tragedy. It
appears we have the perpetrator in custody. The only thing we can do now
is mourn. We mourn for the kids. We mourn for the police who had to be
out here. We mourn for the community."
Dyer said he will appear on the "Today" show at 4:30
a.m., or 7:30 on the East Coast.
"I hesitated whether or not to do that," Dyer said.
"I think it's important for the people of America to know that this is
an aberration [for Fresno]."
The nine deaths represent the largest mass killing in
Fresno since 1993, when seven people were killed in the Carrillo's Club
murders in rural Fresno.
Dad Guilty Of Killing His 9 Kids
Domineering Father Of Large, Incestuous Clan Found Guilty Of Murder
June 17, 2005
FRESNO, Calif. - Marcus Wesson, the domineering patriarch of a large and incestuous clan,
was convicted Friday of murdering nine of his children, whose bodies
were found in a bloody pile last year at the end of a police standoff.
Wesson, 58, could get the death penalty.
The jury took more than two weeks to find Wesson
guilty on nine counts of first-degree murder. He was also convicted on
all 14 counts of raping and molesting seven of his underage daughters
The defense had argued that Sebhrenah Wesson, 25 -
the oldest to die - killed herself as well as her siblings and the 1-year-old
son she had with her father. Prosecutors said Marcus Wesson was the
triggerman, but they also argued that even if Sebhrenah did the shooting,
her father should still be found guilty if he encouraged her to kill.
The jurors accepted the prosecution's second theory:
They found Wesson guilty even though they decided the government did not
prove he pulled the trigger.
Several witnesses had testified that Wesson had
repeatedly coached the children to be ready to kill each other and
themselves if authorities ever threatened to break up the clan.
Many of Wesson's surviving family members still
support him, and stifled sobs as a clerk read the verdicts. Wesson
remained quiet and still.
The jury will return on Wednesday for the penalty
The slayings were the worst murder case ever seen in
this agricultural town in the heart of California's Central Valley.
Officers were summoned to Wesson's rundown home on
March 12, 2004, after two Wesson nieces who had escaped from the home
went back to try to get their children.
Wesson talked with officers at the front door, then
went into the back bedroom and shut the door. About an hour and 20
minutes later, he emerged, blood on his clothing, and turned himself in.
In the bedroom was a bloody pile of corpses, each
shot through the eye. Officers pulled out the bodies of Sebhrenah Wesson
and the eight others, ranging in age from 1 to 17.
No fingerprints or gunshot residue indicated who
fired the murder weapon. But Wesson's surviving children testified that
he wielded a high degree of control over his large clan: He preached to
the family daily, weaving a dogma of polygamy and incest from his
interpretations of the Bible and Seventh Day Adventist beliefs.
He was particularly severe with the young women, who
testified they were home-schooled and had almost no contact with anyone
outside the family.
Wesson beat them for speaking with men, and molested
them from age 7 or 8. He also took any money they earned and dictated
what they could eat.
The Crime the
Media Chose to Ignore
Mass murder, incest, rape — and media
During 2004 and 2005, Americans were
fixated on Scott Peterson’s murder of his wife and unborn son. News
channels reported breathlessly on the smallest developments in the
investigation and trial, and scrutinized Mr. Peterson, his mistress
Amber Frey, and the lawyers’ performances.
The national media
has virtually ignored another case that is even stranger and more
shocking: Marcus Wesson’s murder of nine of his own children in
Fresno, California. Not only were there more victims, but the
circumstances were much stranger. Mr. Wesson carried on incestuous
relations with several of his daughters and nieces for years,
brainwashed the family into believing he was a Messiah, and made a
murder-suicide pact with them. The media silence must certainly be
due to the fact that Mr. Wesson is black. The media soft-pedal news
about black crime because editors do not want to show non-whites in
an unflattering light.
People who have
known Marcus Wesson say he is highly eccentric and moderately
intelligent. He has a large vocabulary and expresses himself in
flowery language. He undoubtedly has an unusual influence on others.
In 1968, Mr. Wesson
left the army, which had sent him to Europe as a medical orderly,
and moved to San Jose, California. Then in his 20s, he moved in with
a Hispanic woman, Rosemary Maytorena, who was in her 30s; the two
had one son. In 1974, Mr. Wesson married Miss Maytorena’s daughter
Elizabeth, who was 15 at the time. Over the next 16 years, he had
ten children with her. His wife Elizabeth had a sister named
Rosemary Solorio, who also appears to have been under Mr. Wesson’s
spell. In 1986, she sent her seven children to live with the Wessons.
The children had been molested in their own home and were reportedly
happy to make the change. The result was a household of considerable
Mr. Wesson could
not keep a steady job, and got most of his income from welfare. The
family drifted from place to place, and some of its living
arrangements were inventive. At one time the family lived in a 26-foot
boat moored in Santa Cruz harbor. Mr. Wesson sometimes scavanged
hamburgers out of a McDonald’s dumpster for his family to eat. The
boat got him in trouble, however: He failed to list it as an asset
on his welfare forms, and went to jail for welfare fraud in 1990. In
the mid- and late 1990s, the family lived in a trailer and large
army tent in the Santa Cruz mountains, on land with no running water.
The Wessons also lived for a time in a decaying 63-foot tugboat off
the shore of Marin County, California. Sometimes they lived in a
school bus. By the late 1990s, the children of Marcus and Elizabeth
Wesson were old enough to work, and Mr. Wesson used their money to
buy the Fresno building in which the murders took place.
None of the children ever went to
school. Mr. Wesson taught them at home, using flash-cards, school
textbooks, and his own weird brand of Christianity. He became
fascinated with David Koresh during the siege at Waco, Texas, in
1993, and made his family into his own personal cult. He described
himself as Jesus Christ and police officers as Satan. When the
family watched television coverage of the Branch Davidian siege, Mr.
Wesson told the children, “This is how the world is attacking God’s
people. This man is just like me. He is making children for the
Lord. That’s what we should be doing, making children for the Lord.”
Mr. Wesson taught
his family to be prepared to die if anyone ever tried to break up
the household. He told his niece, Rosa Solorio, and his daughter,
Sebhrenah Wesson, they were “strong soldiers,” who would hunt down
and kill family members who betrayed him, and who might have to kill
the family and themselves to prevent a break-up. Possibly in
anticipation of such a massacre, Mr. Wesson bought ten coffins from
an antique dealer.
Mr. Wesson was also
fascinated by vampires, and gave himself and his daughters and
nieces vampire names. His name for himself was Jevammarcsuspire, a
mixture of Jesus, Marcus and Vampire.
Mr. Wesson began
sleeping with his daughters and nieces after he got out of jail in
1990. According to trial testimony of Ruby Ortiz, née Solorio, one
of the nieces sent to live with the Wessons, Mr. Wesson began
molesting her when she was eight. Mrs. Ortiz testified that she
loved Mr. Wesson at the time and at age 13 enthusiastically agreed
to “marry” him. The marriage ceremony consisted of the couple
putting their hands on the Bible and reciting marriage vows. Mr.
Wesson “married” three of his nieces and two of daughters this way
and had children by all of them. Mrs. Wesson fully approved of these
incestuous unions. In fact, when Ruby Solorio ran away from home as
a teenager, Mrs. Wesson persuaded her to come back to the house to
take care of her son by Mr. Wesson. Mrs. Ortiz testified that Mr.
Wesson could be cruel and jealous. He isolated his children from the
outside world and beat her with a stick or baseball bat when she
talked to boys or did not learn her lessons.
Despite this abuse,
many in the family fondly remember their days with Mr. Wesson. He
devised entertainments for the family, such as plays, concerts, and
“ugly” contests, in which the children would dress up to be as ugly
The Wessons spooked
their neighbors. Mr. Wesson weighs about 400 pounds, and one
neighbor in Fresno described his hair as “one big, long greasy
dreadlock. It was just caked in dirt and oil.” When Mr. Wesson would
go out with the family, the women wore dark robes and walked behind
him in silence with their eyes downcast. When the Wessons lived on
the tugboat, the girls would row Mr. Wesson to shore and back. “They
rowed him like they were slaves … ,” says one neighbor. “I had him
pegged as some sort of Jonestown cult.”
All of the boys in
the family moved out of the house when they were old enough, as did
most of the girls. However, two of the daughters, Sebhrenah Wesson
and Elizabeth Breani Wesson, and one of the nieces, Rosa Solorio,
stayed with their father into adulthood, supporting the family.
There were also several young children still in the house.
In 2003, the
Wessons bought a house in Fresno that had been an office building.
City authorities moved to evict the family because it was a non-residential
The prospect of
eviction may have played some part in precipitating the murders. Mr.
Wesson probably saw it as part of a plot against him and his family.
But the primary trigger for the murders was a March 12, 2004 visit
from Ruby Ortiz and Sofina Solorio, two nieces who had moved out of
the household, and wanted Mr. Wesson to give them their daughters.
He refused, and the family shouted curses at the two women, calling
them “Judas,” “whore,” and “Lucifer.”
The two women left
without their children, and returned with the police. Officers
ordered Mr. Wesson to come out, but he fled inside the building. The
police called the city attorney, who told them they had no legal
right to go inside. Then Rosa Solorio and Mrs. Wesson came out of
the building and reported Mr. Wesson had a gun. Police back-up and a
SWAT team arrived. Just as they were taking positions around the
house, Mr. Wesson emerged covered in blood and surrendered.
Relatives of the victims blame police for not taking action sooner.
What the police
found inside was so horrific that some of them went on
administrative leave or into counseling. The nine bodies of Mr.
Wesson’s children, who were all shot through one eye, were tangled
up in a bloody pile of clothing. The victims ranged in age from one
to 25. Two were Mr. Wesson’s daughters; the other seven were
children of his daughters and nieces, all of them under eight years
of age. The ten coffins Mr. Wesson had bought lined the wall of one
of the rooms. That night six police chaplains reported to the
building to soothe the detectives gathering evidence. The mayor of
Fresno said the city would never be the same again after the largest
mass-killing in its history.
It is possible that
Mr. Wesson did not commit the murders. His lawyers say it was
“strong soldier” Sebhrenah Wesson who shot the others and then
killed herself. She was on top of the pile of bodies, and the gun
was underneath her. Police found no gun residue on Mr. Wesson. Even
if he did not fire the weapon, however, prosecutors say he could
still get the death penalty for conspiracy to commit murder, and
aiding and abetting murder.
Mass Murder in Fresno: Marcus Wesson – Still
Fresno means “Ash Tree” and reminiscent of many cities in California
began under Mexican rule. As the city emerged into a rich blend of
metropolitan life mixed with small town living, this culturally
diverse city has grown to a population surpassing 400,000 people
with 90 different nationalities.
Fresno climate is moderate and the town is
located near three of America’s national parks: Yosemite National
Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The city is home to
many famous racing drivers, including well known Bill Vukovich.
Fresno reported 42 homicides and 3,780 total
violent crimes in 2002. There were 36 murders in Fresno last year,
down 14% from the year before. In the first two and one half months
of 2004, the city had seen only three murders, the fewest in more
than three decades a California paper reported. Those statistics
drastically changed on March 12, 2004.
Responding to a child custody dispute on Friday
afternoon at a small home at 761 W. Hammon Avenue near Roeding Park,
Fresno police found nine bodies stacked in a bedroom entwined in a
pile of clothes. Ruby Sanchez and Sofina Solorio had went to the
house in an attempt to take their two children, Aviv Dominique
Wesson (mother—Ruby Sanchez) and Johnathon St. Charles Wesson (mother--Sofina
Solorio). The children were living with Marcus Wesson.
Wesson initially ignored instructions by law
enforcement to come out of the house and ran into a back bedroom as
two women, who were unharmed, fled the house. After a two-hour
standoff, Marcus Wesson, 57, was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Officer Jerry Dyer, a police officer for 25 years,
said about the scene: “…I’ve never experienced anything of this
nature.” (The Fresno Bee, 3/13/04) The crime was so gruesome many of
the officers were placed on administrative leave and counseling.
The victims were seven children from 1 to 8, a
20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl. It was thought that all
were children of the suspect, Marcus Wesson.
As police attempted to piece together this
grizzly puzzle, Wesson, who remained in custody with bail set at $9
million, remained calm and cooperated with police. Law enforcement
spent hours at the crime scene gathering evidence. Identifying the
bodies was difficult since some of the women involved were afraid to
come forward. As new information was unveiled, it became clear that
the sorted details leading up to the tragic ending of nine lifes was
laced with words like polygamy, incest, rituals, and cults.
Friends and neighbors describe the family as odd and were suspicious
of Wesson. There may be as many as six different mothers involved
and the household seemed to operate as a commune. The women worked
to support Wesson and lived by strict rules made by Wesson. Their
lifestyle included home schooling, modest clothing and rejecting
America’s “normal” way of life. (Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2004)
Law enforcement was looking into the possibility that Wesson was
involved in a cult. However, two of his sons said they were raised
as Seventh-Day Adventists.
Over the years Wesson led his clan from a
squatter’s camp in the mountains to a dilapidated sailboat and
finally to inland California where he hauled the family around in an
old school bus. (CBS News, 3/17/04) A neighbor, Diana Wohnoutka, who
lived by Wesson and his family in the 80s said, “He was definitely
strange. He believed he didn’t have to work. God would take care of
him. That’s how he always preached to us.” (CBS News, 3/17/04)
He bought dozens of mahogany caskets from antique
stores in Fresno. According to Lois Dugovic, a shop owner, Wesson
planned on using the wood to repair a boat. He left the caskets at
the store for nearly a year and when he came to pick them up, the
girls dutifully loaded each of the caskets into a yellow school bus.
Police removed the caskets as evidence on Monday, the 15th.
Arraignment is set for Wednesday, March 17th at
1:30 p.m. Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said that authorities were
not ruling out that more than one person was involved. (CNN,
3/15/04) Toxicology tests to see whether the victims were drugged
were pending on the victims. Law enforcement was investigating all
angles including whether Wesson was involved in a cult. Certainly,
the lifestyle they chose and the fact that Wesson fathered most of
the victims leads anyone to wonder about this dysfunctional family
As stories continue to surface about this family,
it is probably safe to profile Marcus Wesson as domineering,
manipulative, charismatic and one who ruled his family with an
ironclad fist, isolating them from human contact and requiring from
each of them their total devotion. He told more than one person he
was God. Two of his sons claimed he was a good father and they were
raised as Seventh-Day Adventists but this religion was quick to wash
their hands of Wesson, answering in length the allegations that
Wesson was a member.
Caron Oswald, Director of Communication for the
Central California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists said that as
far as they could tell Marcus Wesson was never a member of this
religious organization although Wesson had had sporadic contact with
Adventist churches and his parents were members of the Seventh-day
Adventist church. He was a janitor at the Soquel campgrounds in the
80s and early 90s and on occasion, brought his children to church
services. Several of his extended family--Sebhrenah Wesson, Kiana
Wesson, Sofina Solorio and Ruby Sanchez--were members of the church.
(Frequently Asked Questions about Marcus Wesson)
The picture of Marcus Wesson that is emerging is
one of a psychopath similar to David Koresh, or Charles Manson. He
manipulated the people he chose to be bound within his inner circle
and used his religious faith to help foster his world. Anyone can
take a religious theme and distort it for his/her own perverted
ideals. This appears to be what Wesson has done with the sole intent
of establishing control.
Marcus Wesson’s oldest son, 29-year-old Dorian
Wesson of Santa Cruz offered support to his father and said, “It
just doesn’t seem like him to do it,” he told reporters. “I can’t
give you an intelligent answer. I just don’t think he’s entirely
responsible.” He added that if he thought his father was capable of
killing children he would have stopped it. He talked about the
family and said his sisters had had artificial inseminations. He
said his father was related to five of the dead children, but the
other two were from another family. (Fresno Bee, 3/22/04)
But, a sister-in-law of the suspected murderer
said he’s evil and controlling. She believes he killed the children
because he didn’t want them taken away from him. Teresa Solorio said,
“That was the ultimate control of their life – whether they live or
die.” (Fresno Bee, 3/20/04) She said that Ruby and Sofiana were
raised by Marcus and Elizabeth and that their lives were filled
sexual abuse. Ruby and Sofiana were able to break free from Marcus’
strong hold, but left their children.
Carrie Wesson, the mother of Marcus Wesson, also
spoke out. “The Marcus Wesson on TV I don’t recognize. That’s not my
son.” “…This is a Christian family. This is not a cult.” (KFSN News,
3/21/04) She described Marcus as a bright, intelligent child who
loved animals. He and his family avoided dances, dressed modestly
and were vegetarians.
Authorities are using DNA to identify the victims.
The coroner said that it doesn’t appear as though any of the victims
struggled and the bodies were not multilated. At an afternoon news
conference on March 22nd, Fresno Police Chief Dyer stated, “The
cause of death for each individual is unique and consistent.” Death
certificates were filed with the Fresno County Department of Health
Sebhrenah April Wesson, 25; (mother—Elizabeth)
Elizabeth Breani Kina Wesson, 17; (mother—Elizabeth)
Illabelle Carrie Wesson, 8; (mother—Kiani
Ethan St. Laurent Wesson, 4; (mother Rosie
Sedona Vadra Wesson, 11/2; (mother Rosie
Marshey St. Christopher Wesson, 11/2; (mother--Sabhrenah)
Jeva St. Vladensvspry Wesson, 1. (mother—Kiani
The death certificates for Aviv Dominique Wesson
(mother—Ruby Sanchez) and Johnathon St. Charles Wesson (mother –Sofina
Solorio), both 7, have not yet been filed. (Fresno Bee, 3/22/04)
Cause of death was determined to be immediate "perforation
of brain" caused by a gunshot wound to the face; Illabelle died of a
"contusion of the brain" after being shot in the face. (Fresno Bee,
All nine victims were fathered by Wesson, even
his daughters Sebhrenah and Kiani and three of his nieces -- Sofina
Solorio, Ruby Sanchez and Rosie Solorio -- a source close to the
investigation said. (Fresno Bee, 3/22/04)
They will be cremated Wednesday at Belmont
Memorial Park in Fresno and their ashes returned to their families.
Community support has been overwhelming with donations directed
toward the victims’ families and a large memorial outside the crime
Meanwhile, Wesson has delayed his arraignment
twice insisting that he does not want a public defender, but wants
to hire his own lawyers – David Mugridge and Gary Harvey. However,
it was unclear whether Wesson could afford his own attorney.
According to a jail report, guards have to watch March 24 hours a
day and he is to have no contact with any of his family. It has been
rumored that a suicide pact exists between March and his extended
family. “He doesn’t want to leave behind any evidence of incest or
polygamy,” said a source close to the case. (KFSN, 3/23/04)
On Wednesday, April 7, 33 more charges of sexual abuse were filed
against Wesson. Evidence collected at the scene includes a gun. Gun
powder residue tests were conducted on Wesson and at least one of
the victims, and fingerprint tests were collected from the gun
Letters written by Marcus Wesson 15 years ago to
a judge in Santa Cruz County after his conviction of perjury and
welfare fraud were obtained by Action News. (KSBW-TV, 4/6/04) These
letters, nearly 80 pages, show a man who felt the system was against
him. In one letter, Wesson says, “I knew the Welfare Department
illegally obtained the information because I, posing as the actor
Richard Widmark, called the tax office … because I wanted to find
out why the boat was in my name instead of my wife’s.” (KSBW-TV,
4/6/04) Ironically, the actor, Richard Widmark, portrayed a
murdering psychopath in the “Kiss of Death.”
At Wesson’s preliminary hearing, he plead not
guilty and Wesson’s public defense lawyer, Pete Jones, said he
didn’t do it. At the hearing Jones questioned police officers
regarding the .22 caliber gun and hunting knife found at the scene
under the oldest victim’s body, 25-year-old Sabhrenah. The bullet
found in Sabhrenah had entered the eye in an upward direction and
her body was found on top of the others. In other words, Sabhrenah
killed the others and then committed suicide. (ABC News, 4/12/04)
This theory coincides with the suicide pact the
family had devised some years ago. If authorities tried to break the
family up, the children would kill each. According to one of
Wesson’s surviving daughters, “…the older ones would kill the
children and then commit suicide.” (ABC News, 4/12/04)
Prosecutors, on the other hand, claim Wesson shot
all victims and that the evidence speaks for itself. Judge Lawrence
Jones ruled that there is sufficient evidence for Wesson to stand
trial on charges he killed nine of his children. If convicted, he
could receive the death penalty.
Other testimony at the hearing included
allegations of sexual and physical abuse by Wesson. It was claimed
that Wesson starting molesting his daughters when they were as young
a 5-years-old. When one of the girls became pregnant she was told by
Wesson to say that she had been artificially inseminated.
In another bizarre twist, Wesson sent a letter to
the Fresno Bee telling them about a biographical book he had written.
The book, "In the Night, of the Light, for the Dark," was rejected
in 2002 by a New York publishing company.
Wesson is due back in court on April 27 when a
trial date will be set. He is charged with nine counts of murder and
13 sex counts, including rape and molestation of girls younger than
14. Judge R.L. Putnam has been assigned the case.
Wesson returned to court on April 27 and appears
determined to get the trial underway. He would not waive his rights
for a speedy trial and again plead not guilty to charges stemming
from the murders. A trial date of June 21 was set. Wesson faces nine
charges of murder and seven rape charges (five counts of continued
sexual abuse and two counts of forced oral copulation).
A May 18 hearing was also set regarding release
of four search warrants. Search warrants are considered public
information unless information contained within the documents would
jeopardize the case if released.
It has not be determined whether Wesson will face
the death penalty if found guilty. Two of his sons were present in
the courtroom. (Fresno Bee, 4/27/04)
UPDATE: Attorneys for Marcus Wesson, Peter
Jones and Garrick Byers, filed a motion on Wednesday, May 19th, to
dismiss murder charges against Wesson. They claim they have evidence
that substantiates the fact that Sebhrenah Wesson, 25, died last. In
their motion, they state that Sebhrenah’s body was on top of the
other children and that the gun used was under her along with a
knife. Further, they state that her wounds were consistent with
suicide. According to their scenario, she allegedly killed the
other eight children and then herself. (Associated Press, 5/13/04)