Court battle on visits dropped

Defense awaits jail date to allow Wesson family meeting.

The Fresno Bee/March 31, 2004
By Matt Leedy, Barbara Anderson and Jim Davis

Marcus Wesson's children have not shared a conversation with their father since he was locked in jail while accused of Fresno's worst mass murder. But after he appeared in court Tuesday, they repeated a message of love and loyalty.

Moments after their eyes met for one of the first times since his March 12 arrest, 26-year-old Kiani Wesson walked outside Fresno County Superior Court and defended her father: "I hope to visit him. What would I say? I don't know what to say. I love him, I can say that."

She said her father is not a harmful person and has been the subject of rumors and lies since he was charged with gunning down nine of his children inside a west-central Fresno home.

Two of the victims are her children.

Marcus Wesson's attorneys planned to argue Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court that his unusually strict visitation limits should be lifted.

Instead, they had the hearing canceled.

"We believe we can work this out amicably, without a court showdown," public defender Garrick Byers told Judge Brant Bramer.

Byers said the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and county counsel are "taking our concerns seriously," and he's optimistic that Wesson will be allowed visitors, beginning April 16, when sheriff's officials said they will re-evaluate the restrictions.

Wesson's family has not been allowed to see him in jail, and he has been prevented from making phone calls to anyone except his attorneys. Jail officials began restricting Wesson's telephone calls and visitors after a woman called them March 14 and expressed concern for her daughter's safety.

The woman, who requested confidentiality, suggested Wesson be blocked from family visits because relatives -- including his wife, Elizabeth -- were going to seek permission to commit suicide.

"This could turn out like the Jones family massacre," she told a jail official, apparently referring to the 1978 mass suicide of 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana.

Kiani Wesson on Tuesday disputed that her father would influence anyone to commit suicide.

"I just want to say that all that, it's not true," she said. "I don't know where everyone is getting that from, but none of that is true."

Marcus Wesson can exchange letters, Byers said, and there is a possibility he could have telephone conversations soon.

Byers would not comment about who would be on Wesson's visitors list, saying the issue is "really a delicate family matter. I mean, he does have a large family."

Byers said Wesson is concerned for his family and its welfare. He also hopes to be able to meet with his visitors in private.

Minutes after Wesson entered the courtroom, the 57-year-old in a yellow jumpsuit was escorted out.

But first, Wesson faced the gallery and smiled at his family sitting in the front row: sons Almae and Serafino Wesson, daughter Kiani Wesson and niece Rosa Solorio.

It was the first such acknowledgment Marcus Wesson has made of his family in court.

Almae Wesson, 23, and his brother, Serafino Wesson, 19, have attended each of their father's court hearings.

During his father's first appearance in court, Almae Wesson shouted, "I love you, Dad" several times before bailiffs walked him out.

Last week, Serafino Wesson bemoaned security measures that have kept him from his father.

"We can't even talk to him," he said, adding he hoped to "tell him I love him."

Marcus Wesson could be put to death if found guilty of nine counts of murder and firearms allegations.

He pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Nine victims were found stacked March 12 in the back bedroom of Wesson's home near Roeding Park. They included a 25-year-old woman, a 17-year-old girl and seven children younger than 9.

The City Council discussed on Tuesday the fate of the building at 761 W. Hammond Ave.

On a 4-3 vote, the council directed the city administration to negotiate the purchase of the property and find money to pay for it. The property is listed at $131,500.

Council Member Jerry Duncan two weeks ago told the council that he hoped the city could purchase the property, bulldoze the building and possibly turn the parcel into a pocket park.

He has been supported by Council Member Cynthia Sterling, whose district includes the property, and Mayor Alan Autry, who would like to see a learning center for children placed on the site.

But three council members -- Brad Castillo, Tom Boyajian and Brian Calhoun -- opposed purchasing the property.

Calhoun said the easy response would be to support destroying the building, but the city should wait until the emotions calm down.

"I don't think, because it's national headlines, we should go in and demolish it," Calhoun said. "We may in time, but this is not the time."

Castillo, the council president, agreed, saying the community was traumatized by the slayings and the council was attempting to remove the unwanted attention they brought the city by purchasing the property and destroying it.

"The market should determine what to do with the property, not the city," Castillo said.

Boyajian wondered whether it would be better to use the money for code enforcement or enforcing the city's vacant-building ordinance rather than buying the building.

Sterling noted that the issue would return to the council because a funding source has not been identified.

Said Sterling: "We're not going to make a rash decision just to move forward."

All of the victims were shot in the face and fathered by Wesson with six women, including two of his daughters and three of his nieces, a source close to the investigation has said.

Toxicology reports have shown "nothing unusual" in the victims' blood, according to Fresno County Coroner Loralee Cervantes.

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