Detective: Suspect in Fresno murders had suicide plan

Citizen/April 4, 2004
By Brian Skoloff

Fresno, Calif. -- A man charged with killing nine of his children, allegedly fathered through polygamy and incest, planned a mass suicide as early as 1995 if authorities came to take his family away, two police detectives testified Thursday.

One of Marcus Wesson's surviving daughters said that under the plan, "the older ones would kill the children and would commit suicide,'' according to Carlos Leal, a Fresno homicide detective who interviewed the 20-year-old woman.

"He would ask them, 'If the time came, would they be ready to die for the Lord?''' Leal said, testifying during a hearing to determine whether the murder case against Wesson should go to trial.

Richard Byrd, a detective who interviewed an adult niece of Wesson's, testified that she said Wesson planned to send girls in the household out to kill relatives who had left the house when it was time for the mass suicide.

Two other police officers Thursday bolstered claims that at least some of the victims were alive March 12 when police arrived at Wesson's home.

Neither officer heard the gunshots some neighbors claim to have heard, but one officer said he heard a baby crying while he talked to Wesson, and the other said some of the bodies were still warm when they were found piled one atop the other, entangled in bloody clothes. Wesson was arrested after emerging from the house with blood on his clothes.

Wesson, 57, has pleaded innocent to charges he murdered a 25-year-old woman and eight of his children ranging in age from 1 to 17. Police said the woman, who was Wesson's daughter, also was the mother of one of the slain children. He is being held on $9 million bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Fresno police have not disclosed a motive for the murders, but said Wesson engaged in incest and polygamy. Officers were called to the scene after several of the children's mothers complained they were unable to take their children from him. Before the start of his preliminary hearing Thursday, Wesson pleaded innocent to 33 additional charges of sexual abuse dating back as far as 1988.

The new accusations against 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 attacks occurred.

Leal said the daughter who spoke of mass suicide claimed Wesson began molesting her and her sisters when they were as young as 5.

According to Byrd, the niece said Wesson claimed to be Jesus Christ and wanted to emulate David Koresh, who died with nearly 80 followers of his Branch Davidian cult in a fire during a 1993 confrontation with federal agents outside Waco, Texas.

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