A tearful Ruby Ortiz testified Tuesday in a Fresno County courtroom that she was Marcus Wesson's child-bride who gave birth to his daughter, Aviv, one of nine children shot to death last year.
Ortiz, who is Wesson's niece, spent all day on the witness stand explaining her incestuous relationship with Wesson, his belief that he is Jesus Christ, his fear of the outside world, and the events leading up to Fresno's worst mass murder.
Her testimony is crucial to the prosecution's theory that Wesson controlled his children with his interpretation of the Bible, harsh beatings, sex and rejection. Prosecutor Lisa Gamoian contends Wesson used these tactics to form a murder-suicide pact with his children in case outside forces came to split up the family.
Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children inside his home near Roeding Park on March 12, 2004. He also is accused of 14 counts of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ortiz told jurors that she was 8 years old when her mother, Rosemary Solorio, gave her and her six siblings to Wesson to raise. In the beginning, Ortiz testified, she loved Wesson and eagerly agreed to marry him when she was 13 and he was 44.
Over the years, Wesson became a cruel, jealous man, who isolated his children from the outside world, and would beat them with a stick or small baseball bat if they crossed him or didn't learn their Bible lessons, she said.
Ortiz said Wesson beat her on several occasions for talking with boys or young men. She ran away three times. The first two, Wesson's legal wife, Elizabeth, encouraged her to return, reminding Ortiz that she is Aviv's mother and also a wife of Wesson.
About age 22, Ortiz said, she left Wesson for good, but left Aviv with him.
Much of Ortiz's testimony is similar to that of her sister, Sofina Solorio, 29, who spent five days on the witness stand. Solorio also "married" Wesson and gave birth to his son, Jonathan, also one of the victims.
Wesson wiped tears from his eyes when Ortiz spoke of when she and Wesson consummated their "marriage." Wesson also wiped his face and shook his head "no" when Ortiz recalled the beatings after she ran away.
Ortiz told jurors she was 8 years old when Wesson began molesting her. He called it loving, "a father's way to show affection to his daughter," she said. By the time she was 13, Ortiz testified, Wesson proposed marriage, saying "God wants man to have more than one wife."
Alone in a bedroom, Ortiz put her hand on a Bible. Wesson then put his hand over hers. He recited the vows, and Ortiz testified that she said, "I do."
Ortiz testified that Elizabeth Wesson knew of the marriage and didn't object. She said Wesson also told his children of his marriage to Ortiz, who became Wesson's third "wife," after Elizabeth and their daughter, Kiani.
As Solorio did last week, Ortiz testified that Wesson often used the Bible to persuade his daughters and nieces to marry him and have his children.
According to Ortiz, Wesson repeatedly said, "God's people are becoming extinct. We need to preserve God's children. We need to have more children for the Lord."
Ortiz also supported Solorio's account of Wesson's fascination with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, who had multiple wives and children. Koresh and nearly 80 followers died in a fire at their Waco, Texas, complex, ending a 51-day siege by federal agents in 1993.
While watching television news accounts of the siege, Ortiz testified, Wesson would tell his children: "This is how the world is attacking God's people. This man is just like me. He is making children for the Lord. That's what we should be doing, making children for the Lord."
Soon after, Wesson's daughters and nieces agreed to have one baby each with Wesson, Ortiz testified. To hide the incestuous relationships, Wesson told the girls to tell relatives that they were artificially inseminated.
The agreement fell apart when Wesson kept having babies with his daughters and nieces, Ortiz testified.
Ortiz already had left Wesson and was married and living in Fresno when she learned of Wesson's new babies because his wife, Elizabeth, came to the Ortiz home to borrow baby formula.
Because Wesson still was having babies, Ortiz testified, she and Solorio no longer wanted Wesson to raise Jonathan and Aviv. They also worried that the children were not eating enough nor being educated.
On March 12, 2004, she and Solorio, along with relatives and friends, confronted Wesson and demanded the return of Aviv and Jonathan. Wesson, however, held off the group and later slipped into the house.
Soon after, the women heard gunfire coming from the house. Solorio said she heard two gunshots; Ortiz said she heard five. Police officers have said they heard none.
Wesson was arrested shortly after when he emerged from the house with blood on his clothes.