Fresno, Calif. -- With nine family members shot to death and stacked in a pile behind him, Marcus Wesson walked out of his house covered in blood and did something others rarely saw: he gave up control. The women in his large clan walked dutifully behind him in dark robes. They did not speak in his presence. They apparently worked to support him. The children were home-schooled because he did not trust public education. And the little girls -- immaculate and wearing dresses -- obediently carried the very coffins that may have been intended to hold their bodies.
Wesson, 57, left them all for dead Friday, shooting everyone in his house -- a 25-year-old woman and eight children, authorities said.
All of the victims were believed to be his children. Police said Wesson may have engaged in incest and polygamy and that the slayings could have been part of a cult ritual.
Wesson's sons denied he was a cult leader, saying he was a good father and that the family had been raised as Seventh-day Adventists.
Over the years, he led his clan of women and offspring from a squatter's camp in the mountains to a sailboat, and finally to inland California.
Wesson is believed to have fathered children with six women, including two of his own daughters, police said. A neighbour said he had four women with him when he moved into the home where the killings occurred, and appeared to be intimate with all of them.