Lee testifies about involvement with Wesson family

Fresno Bee/May 16, 2005
By Pablo Lopez

A Tennessee woman testified this morning in Fresno County Superior Court that she had a sexual relationship with accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson more than two decades ago.

Illabelle Lee, 45, said she nearly became one of Wesson’s wives because of his strong influence over her.

Though Lee last saw Wesson 23 years ago, she testified that Wesson's influence remains strong in her life.

Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children inside his central Fresno home on March 12, 2004. He also is accused of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces.

Testimony has revealed that Wesson was the father of the slain victims. The mothers include his wife, Elizabeth, daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah, and nieces Rosa and Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz. This morning, prosecutor Lisa Gamoian called the blonde-haired Lee as a witness to show that Wesson allegedly used women to get what he wants.

Lee said she was nearly 19, pregnant and alone when she met Marcus and Elizabeth Wesson outside a Seventh-day Adventist Church in San Jose in October 1978. Soon after, Lee and the Wessons formed a strong friendship and went to church functions together, she told jurors in Judge R.L. Putnam’s courtroom.

Lee testified she was closer to Marcus Wesson than his wife because “he was good at listening to people. He’s good at getting people to open up and build a trust.”

Once a bond was formed, Marcus Wesson began talking about his beliefs that man can have multiple wives, using the Bible to justify it, Lee said.

Lee testified she liked the idea of being one of Wesson’s wives because at the time she was “looking for someone to depend on, confide in, trust and share a life.”

Lee said Wesson was already married to Elizabeth and that her sister, Rosemary, was one of his wives. “It seemed to me that [Elizabeth Wesson] was allowing it,” Lee said.

Lee testified her relationship with Marcus Wesson comprised hugging, kissing, intimate touching and oral sex on him. She said she never had sexual intercourse with him.

To keep the relationship intact, Lee said, she gave money to the Wessons for fear that he might ignore her or cut her out of his life.

Lee said she finally left Marcus Wesson in May 1982 because Wesson always referred to her as his mistress and said she would never be equal to Elizabeth.

Lee’s friendship with the Wessons, however, is evident; she told jurors that Kiani Wesson named her first child after Lee.

Illabelle Wesson, 8, was among the slain victims.

Lee said she occasionally received letters from the Wessons. In one letter, Lee said, Marcus Wesson transformed her first name to say “Ilovebelle.”

To this day, Lee told jurors, Marcus Wesson’s influence is the third-strongest in her life, behind her parents and husband.

The trial will continue after the lunch break

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