FRESNO, Calif. – A man accused of killing nine of his children pleaded not guilty Thursday and his attorney asked a judge to lift an order barring surviving relatives from visiting his client.
"He's still cloaked in a presumption of innocence," Marcus Wesson's (search) attorney Peter Jones said after the hearing.
Judge Brant Bramer (search) scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the motion.
Wesson has been kept in isolation at the Fresno County Jail (search), unable to receive visits or phone calls from relatives. Officials based the decision on a phone call from a woman who called the jail March 14, two days after the bodies were found.
"We were told (relatives) would request his permission to commit suicide," said Wes Merritt, a chief deputy in Fresno County's Counsel's Office.
At Thursday's hearing, Wesson did not look at four relatives who appeared in court.
The victims of the mass slaying included eight 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, police said. They were found piled one on top of another, entangled in clothes.
Wesson, who emerged from the house that day with blood on his clothes, could face the death penalty if convicted.
After Thursday's hearing, a woman who identified herself as Kiani Wesson, Marcus Wesson's 26-year-old daughter, asked the media to stop spreading "lies about how the family lived."
"Nobody knows Marcus," she said.
Kiani Wesson is named as the mother of victims Illabelle Carrie Wesson, 8, and Jeva St. Vladensvspry, 1, in their death certificates. Authorities believe Marcus Wesson fathered the children.
The arraignment came a day after funerals were held for the nine victims.
Elder T.J. Caldwell, a pastor who attended one of the services, said some relatives sobbed as they passed the babies, who lay in their caskets with pink flowers nearby.
"I kept thinking, 'We have to depend on the Lord to get us through,"' Caldwell said.