A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, balloons and flowers grew on the pavement today in front of a home where a man is accused of killing nine members of his family, some that police said may have been the product of incest with his own daughters.
Post mortem examinations on six of the victims showed each died of at least one gunshot wound, Patricia Bresett, assistant to the Fresno county coroner, said. She said the other autopsies were expected to be completed later in the day.
It is the largest mass killing ever in Fresno, a city of 440,000 people about 190 miles south-east of San Francisco.
Marcus Wesson, 57, emerged blood-covered from his home on Friday night after police were called there because of a child custody dispute. In a back room, police found a tangle of bodies and clothing, a sight so gruesome it reduced some veteran officers to tears.
Police needed hours to sort through the bodies, but eventually determined there were six females and three males ranging in age from 1 to 24. Authorities say they were probably all Wesson's children and grandchildren.
Wesson was jailed on nine murder charges, and bail was set at 9 million. Coroner's officials said the victims' names might be made public later today.
"It's just very complicated," Deputy Fresno County Coroner Amy Hance said. "Who do you make notification to if eventually some of the victims are other victims' relatives?"
Coroner Loralee Cervantes told The Fresno Bee that police were investigating whether Wesson had help in committing the killings, perhaps even by one of the victims. Police conducted tests to determine if there was gunshot residue on the hands of one of the victims.
She also said there was no sign the victims tried to struggle or escape.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said police are trying to explore all possibilities.
"In all of our dealings with him, he's been very articulate," Dyer told "Good Morning America." Asked if Wesson had confessed, he said, "He has been co-operative and we're continuing with the investigation."
A memorial swelled in front of the single-story house over the weekend. A steady flow of people came by with more cards and teddy bears. A bouquet of flowers had a card that read: "A community that cared."
After their initial investigation officers left the house and removed the police tape, but yesterday they once again cordoned off the home's perimeter, and later carried away several boxes of material.
Dyer said authorities had yet to determine a motive for the killings, but Dyer and others described bizarre aspects to Wesson's life and family.
Police said Wesson had fathered children with at least four women, two of them his own daughters, and Dyer said authorities were investigating the possibility of the suspect's involvement with other women in a polygamous relationship.
Frank Muna, a lawyer who once sold Wesson a house, said Wesson had lived with five women and "the neighbours felt there was some weird kind of polygamy commune thing going on." The women seemed to be under Wesson's control, walking behind him and not speaking when he was present, Muna said.
Antique store owner Lois Dugovic, who sold Wesson several hand-carved mahogany coffins about five years ago, said he seemed to hold unusual sway over his daughters, who sometimes came with him on his monthly visits to the store. Though clean and well-dressed, the girls were quiet and avoided eye contact, leading Dugovic to think their father had tight control over them.
Police found 12 wooden coffins in Wesson's house. Dugovic said he told her he planned to use the wood to repair a houseboat.
Authorities told the Bee that each of the victims was shot in the same place on the body, although they would not say where.
"When you have a number of victims and the pattern in which they were killed is consistent, it becomes more unusual," Cervantes said.
The grisly discovery stunned not only police and residents, but also Wesson's 29-year-old son, Dorian.
"I don't want to believe it," said Dorian Wesson, adding that he hadn't seen his father in about a year. "I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But they're all dead."