Fresno Suspect Denied Contact With Family

The man accused of killing nine of his children has been barred from making phone calls or receiving visitors in prison because police think he could order family members to kill themselves, a sheriff's official said Wednesday.

A relative called the jail saying she feared Marcus Wesson (search) might order such suicides.

"We were told they would request his permission to commit suicide," said Wes Merritt, a chief deputy in Fresno County's Counsel's Office.

Merritt said the woman called the jail on March 14, two days after Wesson emerged from his Fresno (search) home covered in blood, leaving behind the bodies of nine of his children. The caller told officials she feared for the safety of her daughter, and thought Wesson should not be allowed to exert his influence on the family, Merritt said.

The victims included children ages 1 to 17, as well as Wesson's 25-year-old daughter, who also was the mother of one of the slain children, authorities said.

Normally, defendants charged with multiple counts of murder are allowed to see visitors and make collect calls, but the warning — which jail officials checked out with investigators — seemed to indicate that Wesson posed a legitimate risk.

Authorities have said Wesson appeared to wield absolute authority over his large clan.

Officials intend to keep Wesson isolated until at least April 16. Merritt said officials were ready to defend their position in court on Thursday, when Wesson is scheduled to be arraigned.

Wesson indicated in court on March 18 that he wanted to have access to visitors. Judge Brant Bramer invited Wesson's attorneys to file a motion to have the argument heard in court on Thursday.

But a letter from David Mugridge, who represented Wesson in his last court appearance, was delivered to the Counsel's Office on Monday, which said he will no longer represent Wesson, and would be formally removed from the case Thursday, Merritt said.

Mugridge has indicated his representation of Wesson would depend on his ability to pay.