Girls didn't date or have boyfriends, son testifies

Fresno Bee/March 22, 2005
By Pablo Lopez

Marcus Wesson Jr. says sisters, cousins said they got pregnant through artificial insemination.

One of Marcus Wesson's sons will tell a Fresno County Superior Court jury today what he thinks of his father's alleged incestuous relationships with his daughters and nieces.

Marcus Wesson Jr., who began testifying Monday, said he thought it unusual when his sisters Kiani and Sebhrenah Wesson and cousins Sofina and Rosa Solorio and Ruby Ortiz turned up pregnant.

The women didn't have boyfriends, nor did they date, he said.

Wesson Jr. testified that he asked the women how they got pregnant, but each time the reply was the same: They got a sperm donor and underwent artificial insemination.

He characterized the women's responses as "weird." After wrapping up two days of testimony from police, jurors have begun hearing from Wesson's wife and children. Their statements, some legal experts contend, could get them into legal trouble.

Judge R.L. Putnam took the unusual step of appointing a lawyer to give advice to Wesson's wife, Elizabeth, 45.

Putnam also has informed Wesson's daughter, Kiani Wesson, 27, and his niece, Rosa Solorio, 23, that they, too, could speak to a lawyer before testifying. The two women have declined the suggestion.

Marcus Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children inside his home near Roeding Park on March 12, 2004. He also is charged with 14 counts of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. He has pleaded not guilty.

Each of the slain victims was fathered by Wesson, according to testimony so far in the trial. Their mothers include his wife, Elizabeth; daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah; and nieces Sofina and Rosa Solorio and Ruby Ortiz, court testimony has indicated.

Fresno defense lawyers Ernest Kinney and David Mugridge, who have been following the case, say Putnam showed good judgment in advising Elizabeth and Kiani Wesson and Rosa Solorio about their right to a lawyer.

"They are a stone's throw from being charged with aiding and abetting the murders," said Kinney, noting that testimony has revealed that the three women were at the crime scene and might have had prior knowledge of the killings.

At the very least, Elizabeth Wesson might be culpable for child endangerment because testimony has shown that she knew her husband was having sex with his underage daughters and nieces, said Mugridge, who teaches law at Fresno Pacific University.

"When a judge takes an unusual stance of offering a lawyer, it's a bell ringer - you have to take him up on the offer," Mugridge said. "Without a lawyer, they are putting themselves at extreme risk."

The three women are listed as prosecution witnesses. Prosecutor Lisa Gamoian has not publicly disclosed whether she plans to charge the women or give them immunity for their testimony.

If the women invoke their constitutional right to not incriminate themselves, then a hearing will be held to determine whether their statements to police are admissible, because Wesson has a right to confront his accusers.

Elder Wesson cries

Monday's testimony began with Eloy Escareno, the first police officer to find the bodies inside Wesson's home. Escareno estimated he checked six to eight victims who were stacked together and intertwined.

"I felt none, no pulses," he said, describing the bodies as "warm to touch." He also said he saw blood, including some that had coagulated.

Following Escareno was Wesson Jr., 22, who testified without the aid of a lawyer.

Appearing calm and thoughtful, the younger Wesson couldn't recall every detail of the events on March 12, 2004, but when he spoke of the pain that the killings caused his family, his father cried.

Wesson Jr. said he moved out of his parents' home about 11/2 years before the killings. He recalled going to his parents' home that day to pick up his brother, Serafino Wesson. They were going to the movies.

But he saw police at the home and learned that his cousins, Sofina and Ruby, who had left their children to the elder Wesson to raise years ago, had come to reclaim them.

Wesson Jr. said the scene was hectic - people talking and yelling at each other, and lots of police radio traffic. He remembers seeing his father at the front door of his home but doesn't recall talking to him at length.

'Something bad happened'

Wesson Jr. said he tried to get inside the home, but his cousin, Rosa Solorio, wouldn't let him enter.

"I ducked under her arm and went inside about three feet," he said, but didn't stay long because police were threatening to arrest people.

Later, he found out that his father had slipped into the home. Soon afterward, he heard two gunshots. Officers with guns drawn then ushered everyone away from the house, Wesson Jr. testified.

As people hugged and cried, he said, "This feeling came to me that something bad happened."

He later overheard a medic say, "They're dead."

Wesson Jr. said he, too, started to cry because the medic counted seven bodies.

His mother, Elizabeth, was hysterical. She kept saying, "My babies. They're gone."

Elizabeth Wesson then fainted, her son testified.

Wesson Jr. said he later learned that nine children had been killed. He named each of the children for the jury.

Wesson Jr. also gave jurors a glimpse into his life with his parents.

He described his mother and father as a religious couple who homeschooled their children. He said his father spanked him and the other children with a stick when they disobeyed him or broke his rules.

"But he always explained why we were being punished," the younger Wesson said.

He said he never questioned his father when he decided to separate the boys from the girls and when the girls were ordered to wear dresses and scarves. "It just happened," he said.

No boyfriends, no dates

Wesson Jr. also said he thought it unusual that his sisters and cousins never had boyfriends or dates. He said he asked Kiani why, and she told him, "I'm not into it right now," Wesson Jr. testified.

He recalled his father would often read the Bible and sometimes cited passages that contained references to multiple wives. But his father "never gave an opinion about it," his son testified.

Wesson Jr. never said how he feels about his father's alleged incestuous behavior. That testimony was put on hold to give Putnam time to rule on the relevance of the statements.

Outside the presence of jurors, Wesson Jr. testified that he still doesn't know whether his father had babies with his daughters and nieces. But if the allegations are true, Wesson Jr. said, "That's not right. I don't want that happening."

Putnam ruled the statements relevant to the prosecution's case that the elder Wesson hid facts from his sons, while allegedly forming a murder-suicide pact with the mothers of his illegitimate children.

Jurors will hear those statements and more from Wesson Jr. today.

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