Prosecutor Lisa Gamoian on Monday accused Marcus Wesson‘s wife of letting him use the Bible to justify his sexual abuse of his daughters.
Elizabeth Wesson denied the charge, telling jurors in Fresno County Superior Court: “How can I protect them [daughters] if they didn’t tell me? They never told me anything.”
For the second day, Gamoian verbally sparred with Elizabeth Wesson, 45, over details of her life with her husband and what she knew of the slayings of nine children a year ago.
Marcus Wesson, 58, is accused of killing all nine children inside his Fresno home near Roeding Park on March 12, 2004. He also faces charges of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. Wesson has pleaded not guilty.
The toll from Elizabeth Wesson’s long day on the witness stand was evident: She buried her head in her hands and sobbed, telling Judge R.L. Putnam, “I don’t feel good.”
Moments earlier, she had told jurors that she ran from her home on that day, leaving her children alone with Marcus Wesson.
“I think about it every day. How could I protect them? I should have protected them,” she said.
Elizabeth Wesson’s testimony is crucial to the prosecution’s theory that her husband formed a murder-suicide pact with his daughters and nieces. The alleged plan was to have been carried out if authorities came to split up the family, prosecutors say.
Though police identified Elizabeth Wesson as a co-conspirator, she has been given immunity from prosecution. Her testimony will resume today. From the start, Elizabeth Wesson’s testimony has been shaky; she can’t remember what she told police in two tape-recorded interviews and has declined to answer many of Gamoian’s questions.
Gamoian also scolded Wesson for looking at her husband before answering questions. Because Wesson cried frequently, Putnam was forced to call several recesses to give her time to regain her composure.
On March 12, 2004, Elizabeth Wesson said, her nieces, Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz, came with more than a dozen relatives to the Wesson home to reclaim their children. Years before, the two women had left their children with the Wessons to raise.
While everyone argued outside, Elizabeth Wesson went into the house.
Wesson testified that she went to a rear bedroom where the children were gathered. She didn’t recall hearing any noise but remembered seeing her husband holding their 17-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
When Gamoian asked for details, Wesson started sobbing, forcing Putnam to call a recess. After the break, Wesson recalled seeing her husband holding their daughter near a “pile of blankets.” When Gamoian pressed for details, Wesson again lost her composure, saying repeatedly, “I just see her eyes” and forcing Putnam to call another break.
Wesson gave little insight into what happened in the bedroom. In a police interview shortly after the slayings, she told detectives she got scared when her husband told her to come into the bedroom.
Instead of obeying his order, Wesson testified, she ran, leaving the younger Elizabeth with her father, and her other daughter, Sebhrenah, 25, in the living room. The young women were among the murder victims.
“I just ran,” she said repeatedly to Gamoian’s questions.
Gamoian also quizzed Wesson about her life with Marcus Wesson, whom she married when she was 15 years old. The Wesson were raising nine children of their own in 1989, when Elizabeth’s sister, Rosemary Solorio, gave her seven children to them to raise, she told jurors.
“My sister was a drug addict,” Elizabeth Wesson explained.
Because the household contained two families, Elizabeth Wesson said, her husband kept the boys away from the girls to ensure they weren’t physically attracted to each other.
On a regular basis, Elizabeth Wesson said, her husband alone would talk to his daughters and nieces. “They never came to me,” Wesson testified, explaining she was often busy caring for her mother and sister.
By that time, Marcus Wesson was comparing himself to Jesus Christ and was regularly interpreting the Bible, she testified.
When the girls started getting pregnant, Elizabeth Wesson said, she never asked who the fathers were. She said her sister had seven children from three men and their mother had 10 children from three men and it would be “mean and rude” to ask about the fathers.
Elizabeth Wesson said she has cooperated with police, but was tired and confused when she talked with detectives. “I just lost my children,” she said, explaining why her first interview wasn’t full of details. Her second interview lacked details, too, because she had just buried her children, she said.
“I just couldn’t do it. Could you?” she asked Gamoian.
Yes, Gamoian said, if it meant finding justice for the nine murdered children.
“Well, I’m not you,” Wesson replied.
Because of the trial, Wesson told jurors, her family has been ridiculed in public and threatened. She often sleeps alone in her car.
Wesson testified that she had no idea whether her husband got his daughters and nieces pregnant, saying the girls told her they were artificially inseminated.
Though her husband believes in polygamy, Wesson said she still loves him and visits him regularly in jail.
“Do you blame your husband?” Gamoian asked.
“No,” Wesson replied. “I blame my family.”