Like many other townspeople, Marshall Store owner Kathy Krohn said she was always puzzled by murder-suspect Marcus Wesson's many women living just offshore.
"They would scrape together pennies to buy Top Ramen [noodles], but they all seemed to be working," Krohn said, suggesting that they were sending their earnings to Wesson, who had previously been convicted of welfare fraud, although he spent money freely.
Wesson's family, whom Fresno Police describe as polygamous and incestuous, frequently lived aboard a tugboat, The Sudan, moored near Marshall's boatworks. Referring to his women, one Marshall resident noted, "I have to say that I think a couple seemed to have Marcus' nose."
Jeremy Fisher-Smith who runs the boatworks said, "Quite a few of us suspected an odd familial arrangement - that something seemed a little wrong." He added, however, that everyone in Wesson's group appeared "relatively peaceful and happy."
For the most part, Marshall residents were tolerant of the mysterious group that dressed all in black, including Wesson whose dreadlocks hung down the back of his black t-shirt almost to his black dungarees.
When some of the young women in the group appeared to be pregnant, one Marshall resident asked Wesson's son Seraphino if they were. With an inscrutable expression, the son replied that the girls had "visited the sperm bank," the resident told The Light.
News reports say Wesson's children were all home-schooled, and Marshall residents noticed that several girls generally had speech impediments, basically a lisp.
The women all wore black from head to toe, store owner Krohn said: black skirts, shoes, and hose, even in hot weather. They stayed in groups whenever they came ashore, she added.
Employees at the boatworks this week told The Light that except for the young women who worked at Marconi Conference Center, the rest of the girls came ashore primarily to pick up supplies, use the payphone to call home, and occasionally row Wesson to the tugboat.
"They rowed him like they were slaves," said Chris Gainsford, who lives on a house facing Reynolds Cove [just north of Tony's Seafood] and is employed at the boatworks. Wesson was "very manipulative and controlling," Gainsford said, adding, "I had him pegged as some sort of Jonestown [cult]."
Sheriff's deputies in January found 10 of Wesson's wives and children living on The Sudan. Marshall resident David Harris, who had complained to deputies about being disturbed at night by noise from Wesson's family, said officers at that time charged Wesson with illegal habitation on the tugboat.
Wesson last week, however, told Gainsford the charges had been dismissed, leading townspeople to believe that Wesson's visit to West Marin indicated he was preparing to move his family back onto The Sudan.
Confirming that scenario, Krohn said she was told by Wesson's women they had re-applied for jobs at Marconi Conference Center.