Wesson's sons back him

'I love you, Dad,' one repeatedly shouts as suspect in nine murders receives a one-day hearing delay.

The Fresno Bee/March 18, 2004
By Matt Leedy

Marcus Wesson's son shouted, "I love you, Dad," before the 57-year-old accused of murdering nine family members had his first court hearing delayed Wednesday.

Wesson asked to wait a day for his arraignment so he could phone a private attorney he would not name.

The man who by all accounts lives an unorthodox and unusual life perpetuated that mystique Wednesday during his initial appearance in Fresno County Superior Court.

He was polite but firm in his refusal to have a Fresno County public defender represent him. Wesson, who seemed to exert much control over his family, managed to put off his arraignment without help from an attorney.

Wesson did not appear intimidated or fazed by a judge or the legal process, unlike dozens of defendants who stand in the same downtown courtroom attached to the Fresno County Jail.

On the day he was scheduled to hear nine murder counts that could lead to a death sentence, Wesson won the postponement after telling a judge he hopes to be defended by a private attorney he's worked with for five years.

Wesson, who stands 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighs 300 pounds and has dreadlocks that hang to his knees, spoke softly and wore a yellow jumpsuit.

Dozens of reporters and photographers in the courtroom audience leaned forward to hear the words of a suspected mass murderer who allegedly killed two women and seven children in a west-central Fresno home.

The bodies with gunshot wounds were found stacked in a back bedroom Friday. They were named this week in the district attorney's criminal complaint: Sebhrenah April Wesson, 25; Elizabeth Breahi Kina Wesson, 17; Illabella Carrie Wesson, 8; Aviv Dominique Wesson, 7; Johnathon St Charles Wesson, 7; Ethan St Laurent Wesson, 4; Sedonia Solorio Wesson, 11/2; Marshey St Christopher Wesson, 11/2; and Jeva St Vladensvspry Wesson, 1.

All are believed to be Wesson's children. The nine victims were fathered by Wesson with six women, two of whom were his own daughters, according to a source close to the police investigation.

In the Fresno County courtroom Wednesday afternoon, Wesson repeated his refusal to be assigned a public defender even after being told that a delay in his arraignment would mean waiving his right to a speedy trial.

A hand shot up from the audience when Judge Brant Bramer asked whether there was anyone in the courtroom to represent Wesson. His son, believed to be 23-year-old Almae Stefan Wesson, cried out: "I am. I love you, Dad."

As Bramer explained that he was asking for an attorney, Wesson's son stood and repeated his message: "I love you, Dad. I love you, Dad."

The young man was ordered to leave the courtroom, and as bailiffs walked him out, he continued: "I love you, Dad."

In the foyer just outside the courtroom, he broke down crying. A representative from Fresno County's Victim Services Department and a sheriff's deputy tried to calm him. The deputy told him that if he didn't calm down and disrupted the court, he could be arrested.

"I don't care if you arrest me," the younger Wesson said. "I don't care if you shoot me or whatever."

Another of Wesson's sons, 19-year-old Serafino Wesson, also sat in the audience. He used a black hat to shield his face from photographers who pointed cameras at him from across the courtroom.

After the son who spoke up left the room, Wesson told Bramer, "I have a lawyer, Sir, I just can't contact him."

Wesson said he's been unable to reach his lawyer or secure money to pay for one because he hasn't been allowed visitors and cannot make phone calls.

"Please, I beg thee, I don't want a public defender," Wesson said.

When Bramer asked for the name of Wesson's attorney, he deflected the question, asking, "Is that necessary?"

Wesson never identified the lawyer he said could be in a Fresno County courtroom today.

After continued discussion about the importance of upholding Wesson's rights for a speedy trial and his refusal to be represented by a public defender, Bramer granted a one-day continuance.

Bramer said Wesson would be arraigned today, when he will hear the charges against him and enter a plea.

"We have to proceed one way or another," Bramer told Wesson. "At that time, you need to have a lawyer here or we will appoint one to you."

Bramer also ordered that Wesson be allowed one phone call so he could contact his lawyer.

Wesson made no telephone calls from the jail as of Wednesday afternoon, said sheriff's Capt. Jose Flores.

No other inmates are with Wesson in jail. Extra security has been added to monitor him.

"I am assigning jail staff to constantly supervise him on an around-the-clock basis," Sheriff Richard Pierce said.

In the courtroom, Judge Bramer granted prosecutor Lisa Gamoian's request to have Wesson held without bail.

Previously, Wesson's bail was set at $9.27 million.

Pete Jones, the public defender's chief defense attorney for major crimes, sat at the defense table and said he expected to be assigned to the case. After Wesson was led back to jail, Jones said it isn't unprecedented to have a suspect refuse to be represented by a public defender.

"It's happened before," Jones said. "He wants to be represented by an attorney of his choice, and he's entitled to it if he can afford it."

While dozens of reporters and photographers gathered at the front of the courtroom, Wesson's two sons slipped out the back of the building. They walked through a back door used to bring food and supplies into the jail and avoided reporters who earlier had chased them, shouting questions.

The sons didn't respond and ran into the jail courthouse. Serafino Wesson shielded his face from cameras with his black jacket, pulled down his black cap and put on sunglasses. The man believed to be Almae Wesson draped a blue plaid shirt over his head.

As they left the court building, two bailiffs, a victim advocate and Fresno County sheriff's Sgt. Jack Sparke escorted the two men across a parking lot and through Courthouse Park to their car at L and Kern streets.

"We're just trying to get them to their car," Sparke said into a radio. "We've got quite a few media following us."

Wesson has been described as a secretive, intimidating man who lived anonymously in Fresno and the small community of Marshall in Marin County.

Fresno police say he engaged in incest and, possibly, polygamy.

Before his arrest Friday, Wesson closely watched over the women and children he kept near his side. The women wore dark robes and scarves, and Fresno neighbors said that if they tried to walk too far ahead, he pulled them back by their hair or shoulders. The children were home-schooled because Wesson didn't trust public education, according to one of his sons.

Wesson had no apparent means of income but told people he worked as a writer. The women who lived with him gave him most of their money and had little to spend for themselves, said shop owners who encountered the family.

Later this week, a single, private funeral service is being planned for seven of the nine victims, said Corey Cooley, vice president of J.E. Cooley Jr. Funeral Service in southwest Fresno.

"I know it's one service, all held at one time," Cooley said.

The family did not request anything special, he said. "We just asked them what kind of services they would prefer. They said just a private one, no specific religion or anything, just for their family."

Cooley said he hasn't been contacted about services for the remaining two children who were slain. His funeral home is donating its services for seven of the nine victims.

Cooley said the family has not indicated a date or place for the children's service. The family is "kind of keeping everything hush-hush."

Manager Sharon Hendrix said the funeral home cannot make arrangements until the Coroner's Office releases the bodies. She said the funeral home doesn't expect to receive the bodies until the end of the week.

Cooley said two women he spoke with about the children's funeral service were remarkably calm. He did not know their relationship to the children, but said: "I don't believe the full impact has really sunk in on everyone yet."

Hendrix said three women, whom she described as mothers of the slain children, appeared to be in shock. "It's just something you really can't fathom."

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