Published March 16, 2004
FRESNO, Calif. – A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, balloons and flowers grew on the sidewalk in front of a home where a man is accused of killing nine of his family members, some that police said may have been the product of incest with his own daughters.
Six coroners, triple the typical weekend staff, worked in shifts Sunday to identify the nine people who police believe were killed by Marcus Wesson (search). It is the largest mass killing ever in Fresno, a city of 440,000 people about 190 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Wesson, 57, emerged blood-covered from his home Friday night after police were called there because of a child custody dispute. In a back room, police found a tangle of bodies and clothing, a sight so gruesome it reduced some veteran officers to tears.
Police needed hours to sort through the bodies, but eventually determined there were six females and three males ranging in age from 1 to 24. Authorities say they were probably all Wesson's children and grandchildren.
Wesson was jailed on nine murder charges, and bail was set at $9 million. Coroner's officials said the victims' names and causes of death might be made public Monday.
"It's just very complicated," Deputy Fresno County Coroner Amy Hance (search) said Sunday. "Who do you make notification to if eventually some of the victims are other victims' relatives?"
Coroner Loralee Cervantes (search) told the Fresno Bee on Sunday that police are investigating whether Wesson had help in committing the killings, perhaps even by one of the victims. Police conducted tests to determine if there was gunshot residue on the hands of one of the victims.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told the Bee that police are trying to explore all possibilities. Police officials could not be reached for further comment by The Associated Press.
Cervantes also told the paper that each of the victims was shot at least once, and that six autopsies conducted so far found that a gunshot was the fatal wound. The remaining autopsies were expected to be completed Monday.
A memorial swelled in front of the single-story house over the weekend. A steady flow of people came by with more cards and teddy bears. A bouquet of flowers had a card that read: "A community that cared."
After their initial investigation officers left the house and removed the police tape, but Sunday they once again cordoned off the home's perimeter, and later carried away several boxes of material.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said authorities had yet to determine a motive for the killings, but Dyer and others described bizarre aspects to Wesson's life and family.
Police said Wesson had fathered children with at least four women, two of them his own daughters, and Dyer said authorities were investigating the possibility of the suspect's involvement with other women in a polygamous relationship.
Frank Muna, a lawyer who once sold Wesson a house, said Wesson had once lived with five women and appeared to have a romantic relationship with each. The women seemed to be under Wesson's control, walking behind him and not speaking when he was present, Muna said.
Antique store owner Lois Dugovic, who sold Wesson several hand-carved mahogany coffins about five years ago, said he seemed to hold unusual sway over his daughters, who sometimes came with him on his monthly visits to the store. Though clean and well-dressed, the girls were quiet and avoided eye contact, leading Dugovic to think their father had tight control over them.
Police found 10 wooden coffins in Wesson's house.
The grisly discovery stunned not only police and residents, but also Wesson's 29-year-old son, Dorian.
"I don't want to believe it," said Dorian Wesson, adding that he hadn't seen his father in about a year. "I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But they're all dead."