Police to add security at Wesson funerals

The Fresno Bee/March 21, 2004
By Pablo Lopez

Fresno police will attend the funerals of accused killer Marcus Wesson's nine children because of threats made to family members.

"We are taking security measures, including a visible, uniform presence at the funeral services and gravesides," Chief Jerry Dyer said Saturday.

Dyer said he, other police officials and members of the District Attorney's Office met to discuss "a plan to deal with the threats and any potential conflicts that may arise between the families."

He declined to say who was making the threats.

The Wesson family is divided because of the slayings and allegations of polygamy and incest. On one side are relatives and friends of Sofina Solorio and Ruby Sanchez, whose children were among those who died in the March 12 attack at Wesson's home. The other side includes Wesson's wife, Elizabeth, and her children, who support Marcus Wesson.

He is accused of killing Sebhrenah April Wesson, 25; Elizabeth Breani Kina Wesson, 17; Illabelle Carrie Wesson, 8; Aviv Dominique Wesson, 7; Johnathon St. Charles Wesson, 7; Ethan St. Laurent Wesson, 4; Sedona Vadra Wesson, 11/2; Marshey St. Christopher Wesson, 11/2; and Jeva St. Vladensvspry Wesson, 1.

The victims were fathered by Marcus Wesson with six women, including his daughters Sebhrenah and Kiani Wesson and three of his nieces -- Sofina Solorio, Sanchez and Rosie Solorio -- a source close to the investigation said.

Fresno County Coroner Loralee Cervantes said Saturday that all the victims were killed March 12. Information about how long the victims might have been dead before they were discovered by police will come out in court, she said.

The Wesson home on West Hammond Avenue near Roeding Park remained protected Saturday by yellow crime-scene tape and a uniformed police officer in a patrol car. A large memorial of stuffed animals, candles, figurines, flowers, writings and other items continued to grow.

Residents of the neighborhood expressed joy that the horde of news media crews was no longer hanging around the house.

Marcus Wesson, who is in the downtown Fresno jail without bail, has until Thursday to hire lawyers to defend him against charges that could result in the death penalty if convicted. If he isn't successful, he will likely get a public defender, whose services he has denounced in court.

He is being held in isolation without contact from family and friends.

The family rift was evident Friday when coffins for seven victims were delivered to Jesse E. Cooley Jr. Funeral Service; the two other caskets went to Yost and Webb Funeral Home. Cooley is providing the services at no charge.

Sanchez is Aviv's mother, and Sofina Solorio is Johnathon's mother. Their children's funeral is being arranged by Yost and Webb Funeral Home.

The division also prompted Elizabeth Wesson's brother, who goes by Mike, to warn the public Friday that money donated for the victims could end up funding Marcus Wesson's criminal defense.

Mike, who won't allow his last name to be published, is on the side supporting Solorio and Sanchez.

Since the March 12 slayings, more than $1,400 has been donated to Elizabeth Wesson to help pay for flowers and burial clothes for the slain children. She was supposed to give $314 to Solorio and Sanchez to help pay for their children's funeral expenses.

She returned $1,000 in donations Saturday to the Fresno Police Department after she read in the newspaper of Mike's concern, Dyer said.

After she told a police chaplain that she had spent $400 for food and other expenses since the slayings, it was decided to give her an additional $400 to help her through her trying times, Dyer said. The remaining $600 will be put in a Bank of the West account for the children of Solorio and Sanchez.

Efforts to talk with Elizabeth Wesson and supporters have been unsuccessful. Castella Rios, who spearheaded the fund-raising drive for the victims, read a message from Elizabeth Wesson:

"Thank you for the help and support that the community has given our family in our time of need. We greatly appreciate all the support that is spiritually, emotionally and financially given to us by the community. At this time we wish that you would give us time to mourn in peace. From the bottom of our heart, we would like to thank you for all your prayers.

"We would also like to thank the Jesse E. Cooley Jr. Funeral Home for their support and donation of the funeral services. And once again, we just want to say, thank you."

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