Welfare fraud, perjury convictions offer insight into mass murder defendant

San Jose Mercury News/March 19, 2004

A Santa Cruz County court file for mass murder defendant Marcus Wesson's 1990 conviction for welfare fraud and perjury provides a glimpse into a man who knew how to work the legal system with pleas for mercy, charges of racism and incompetent attorneys.

Wesson's arraignment in Fresno was delayed Thursday for another week to give him more time to hire an attorney. He is accused of murdering nine of his children last week.

Wesson, 57, lived for much of the last two decades in Santa Cruz County, according to neighbors. In 1989, he faced Santa Cruz County charges of welfare fraud and perjury for defrauding the state and federal government of $24,441 in welfare and food stamp benefits from November 1987 to January 1989.

Wesson had bought a sailboat for $14,000 in 1987 and tried to hide the fact that he owned it from welfare officials. He was convicted and sentenced to 180 days in jail, and ordered to sell the boat to pay back fees.

Wesson appealed, writing dozens of pages of letters to Judge Bill Kelsay and the state appeals court in San Jose. He complained about alleged misconduct by his attorney, called the all-white jury racist and claimed Kelsay was biased against him.

The appellate court in March 1992 denied the appeal, noting his ``lengthy, sometimes rambling'' declarations of innocence.

When Wesson was hauled back to court in 1996 for not paying county tax bills, he claimed he would have been able to pay his bills if he hadn't been kicked off welfare.

Monterey Harbor Master Steve Scheiblauer, then the harbor master in Santa Cruz, said what Wesson "really needed was a place to park his bus'' and use the harbor showers. He said Wesson's large family slept in the bus.

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