Daughter testifies they had saved $105,000 in cash.
A daughter of accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson testified Friday that her family was happy and wanted to sail around the world, but their travel plans ended when nine children were killed inside their Fresno home last year.
Marcus Wesson’s lawyers elicited Kiani Wesson’s testimony to rebut the prosecution’s assertion that the family was poor, miserable and talking about killing themselves in the months before the slayings.
Kiani Wesson told jurors in Fresno County Superior Court that the family was low on cash because it had just made an $80,000 down payment on a Fresno home in late summer or fall of 2003. The family survived, she said, because relatives gave food, clothing and money.
Marcus Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine children on March 12, 2004, inside the home the family bought near Roeding Park. He also faces 14 counts of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. He has pleaded not guilty.
Testimony has revealed that Marcus Wesson was the father of the slain children. The mothers included his wife, Elizabeth, daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah, and nieces Rosa and Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz.
Kiani Wesson finished testifying Friday after six days on the witness stand in Judge R.L. Putnam’s courtroom.
Jurors on Monday will hear Kiani Wesson’s two taped interviews with police because she gave conflicting testimony in court.
Key to Kiani Wesson’s testimony were her diaries that revealed Marcus Wesson lived a life of leisure – his daughters and nieces frequently scratched his head and armpits, washed his long, gray dreadlocks and worked several jobs so he didn’t have to work.
Though her father and mother never held a job, Kiani Wesson defended them, testifying in court that her mother took care of the children while her father helped his daughters and nieces invest their earnings from working at McDonald’s in Fresno, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Fresno and the Marconi Convention Center in Marshall in northern California. The women’s investments were not revealed in court.
By pooling their money, the women accumulated about $105,000 in cash, as well as a few boats, a customized school bus that served as a motor home, 2,500 home movies and a limousine that needed repairs, Kiani Wesson told jurors.
After putting $80,000 down on the Hammond Avenue home, the family owed only $20,000 and was paying $100 a month in payments, Kiani Wesson testified. The leftover $25,000 in cash was used to pay bills and buy a car, she said.
Kiani Wesson testified that her family had a good life, often reading the Bible, traveling and doing things together. She also told jurors the family was preparing for the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world.
Everyone in the family got along fine, Kiani Wesson said, and the ones who ran away — sister Gypsy Wesson and cousins Ruby Ortiz and Sofina Solorio – often gave the family food, clothing and money.
The family was planning to sell the Hammond Avenue home, as well as its other assets, Kiani Wesson said, in order to visit Marcus Wesson’s parents in Washington. They then planned to sail around the world; Marcus Wesson already had a line on a good sailing boat, she told jurors.
The dream ended, she said, when Ortiz and Solorio came to the Wesson home March 12, 2004, to reclaim their children.
Years before, Ortiz and Solorio had agreed to give their children to the Wessons to raise, Kiani Wesson testified.
But during prosecutor Lisa Gamoian’s re-direct examination, Kiani Wesson agreed that Ortiz and Solorio had legal rights to their children because any agreement they made with Marcus Wesson was not binding.
Gamoian also pointed out that Kiani Wesson and other family members had applied for welfare.
Kiani Wesson explained that her application was rejected because she was part owner of the Hammond Avenue house.
If the family had money, Gamoian asked, why didn’t Ortiz and Solorio get their share of it when they left the Wesson family?
Kiani Wesson said the women had agreed to leave their children with Wesson, as well as forfeit any money they invested in the homes, boats and vehicles.
“The home was for the children.” Kiani Wesson said.
The prosecutor also attacked Kiani Wesson’s religious beliefs, asking the witness whether she broke one of the Ten Commandments when she agreed to have sex with her father, who is married to her mother.
“Did you commit a sin?” Gamoian asked. “How are you going to be ready for the end of the world?”
Kiani Wesson said she didn’t commit adultery because she was a “surrogate mother” for her mother, who could no longer have children.
She also admitted that she doesn’t strictly follow the Bible and isn’t much of a churchgoer.
“I live the way I want to,” Kiani Wesson said.
After Kiani Wesson’s taped interviews with police are played Monday, trial testimony will shift to the crime scene investigation.
Apr. 23, 2005