Suspect in Fresno family slayings faces new charges

Associated Press/April 8, 2004

Fresno -- Prosecutors filed 33 additional charges yesterday against a man accused of shooting nine of his children to death at their home last month. All the new charges involve incidents of sexual abuse, some dating back to 1988.

The new accusations against Marcus Wesson include multiple charges of continuous sexual abuse and forcible rape against females who lived with him, but the documents do not specify whether they were family members. Five of the six victims were under 14 when the alleged attacks occurred.

Wesson, 57, already has been arraigned on charges he murdered a 25-year-old woman and eight children ranging in age from 1 to 17. Police said the 25-year-old, who was Wesson's daughter, also was the mother of one of the slain children.

Wesson has pleaded innocent to the murder charges and is being held in lieu of $9 million bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

At yesterday's court appearance, public defender Pete Jones argued that access to documents he's requested, including transcripts of interviews with witnesses, and more time to explain the new charges to his client or go through any evidence related to them, were necessary or he "could not possibly be effective" in Wesson's defense.

"We have been put in an impossible situation here," Jones said. "If ordered to go forward, we will go forward, but we are not ready, we are not prepared."

Judge Lawrence Jones rejected the bid to delay, noting Wesson had not waived his right to a hearing within 10 days of his arraignment.

The public defender was given time in court to briefly go over the new charges with his client. Wesson, whose dreadlocks hang down to his knees, shuffled across the courtroom to the attorney's table, clanging the chains that bound his hands and ankles. He never looked in the direction of his two sons, Almae and Serafino Wesson.

The judge set the preliminary hearing for today.

Fresno police have not disclosed a possible motive for the murders, but said Wesson might have engaged in incest and polygamy. Officers were called to the scene when several of the children's mothers were unable to take their children away from him.

When Wesson emerged from the house with blood on his clothes, he was arrested. The victims were found one on top of another, entangled in clothes.

Authorities said Wesson appeared to wield absolute authority over his household. The women walked behind him, did not speak in his presence and apparently worked to support him. The children were home-schooled because Wesson did not trust public education.

Over the years, he led his nomadic clan of women and offspring from a squatter's camp in the mountains to a dilapidated sailboat, and to inland California, where he hauled them around in an old school bus.

Wesson has been kept in isolation at Fresno County Jail, unable to receive visits or phone calls from relatives.

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