Deputies try to junk accused murderer’s boat

As jury selection continued this week in the Fresno murder case of Marcus Wesson, sheriff’s deputies in West Marin were negotiating the removal of his tugboat from Tomales Bay, where the boat is currently moored. Wesson and his family spent much of their time on the tugboat when not in Fresno.

Wesson, who will stand trial for the murder and sexual abuse of nine family members, owned at least three boats in Marshall’s Reynolds Cove: the Sudan, his tugboat; the Raven, a sailboat; and a third, the Abeja, described by Chris Gainsford of Marshall as “some sort of survivalist, water-borne RV.” Wesson was renovating the Abeja – an outlandish, dilapidated boat with ornate moldings – onshore.

“Every time a piece of junk came up for sale in Reynolds Cove, he would buy it,” said Marshall resident David Harris.

Wesson kept a low profile in Marshall, visiting with his family about once a week for several days before returning to Fresno. But in the fall of 2003, Reynolds Cove resident David Harris complained repeatedly to sheriff’s deputies about Wesson’s and his family’s comings and goings which took them across Harris’s property at odd hours of the morning.

“My issue was that they kept on showing up at three, four, five in the morning,” Harris said.

Ten women and children living onboard

Harris’s complaints eventually led to an investigation of the Sudan in January 2004 by the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol. The Patrol discovered 10 women and children living onboard, below deck. Wesson was charged with illegal habitation of the tugboat, but the charges were later dropped.

Two of the young women living on the Sudan, Sebhrenah April Wesson, 25, and Elizabeth Breani Kina Wesson, 17, worked as maids at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall.

Both girls were among the dead discovered in Wesson’s Fresno home on March 12, 2004, when police, summoned to the scene by relatives of the women and children held within, surrounded the house and, after a standoff that lasted several hours, arrested Wesson when he exited the front door covered in blood.

Inside the house, authorities found the bodies of nine people in a tangled pile of clothes in a backroom. The victims, ranging in age from a one-year-old toddler to a 25-year-old woman, had each been shot once through the eye. Ten white coffins were neatly stacked against Wesson’s livingroom wall.

Sebhrenah’s role in the killings has been a focus of both the prosecution and the defense. No gunpowder was discovered on Wesson’s hands after his arrest, and public defender Pete Jones said it was Sebhrenah who shot her siblings and child before committing suicide.

Daughter made to perform killings

The prosecution may attempt to show that Wesson forced his daughter to perform the killings for him, relying on evidence that he controlled his family through a combination of intimidation and indoctrination into his eccentric religious beliefs.

At a preliminary hearing in Wesson’s case, Fresno homicide detective Carlos Leal related stories from Wesson’s children that they were ordered to study the King James Bible twice a day and listen to Wesson preach. If any of his family broke the rules, Wesson subjected them to what his children called “week-long spankings,” Leal said.

Jeremy Fisher-Smith, who runs the Marshall Boatworks, recounted one incident when Wesson began to hold forth to him on his personal creed.

“He told me, ‘We are all created perfect,’” Fisher-Smith said. “‘I was created perfect, and I am a perfect being, but the world will try to teach you otherwise.’”

Wesson’s family was allegedly incestuous, and in addition to the nine murder charges, Wesson will face thirteen counts of sexual abuse of his daughters and nieces. Reports released after Wesson’s arrest showed that he practiced polygamy and was both father and grandfather to at least one of his victims.

Wesson certainly cut an odd figure whenever he appeared at Reynolds Cove with the large group of women who formed his “family.”

“Quite a few of us suspected an odd familial arrangement,” Fisher-Smith said. “Something was a little wrong.”

One Marshall resident, noticing that several of the young women looked pregnant, asked Wesson’s son Seraphino if they were. He replied that the girls had “visited the sperm bank.”

Another cult in Marshall

Gainsford noted that Wesson’s women were clearly subservient to him.

“They rowed for him like they were slaves,” Gainsford said, adding that Wesson appeared “very manipulative and controlling.”

“I had pegged him as some sort of Jonestown [cult],” he said.

Prosecutors in Wesson’s trial may attempt to do the same, calling in mental health specialists to demonstrate that Wesson had formed a kind of cult and exercised mind control over his daughters and wives. Potential witnesses in Wesson’s case include J. Reid Melloy, a forensic psychologist, and Park Dietz, who testified in the trials of Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz, better known as the “Son of Sam.”

Jury selection for Wesson’s case began Tuesday, Jan. 25. Earlier this month, 2,200 potential jurors were summoned to appear in Fresno County Superior Court. Of the several hundred that showed up last week, 12 will be chosen after about a month of questioning.

In the meantime, Wesson’s boats remain moored on Tomales Bay. Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Anderson estimated that it would cost $65,000 to remove the tugboat.

The sheriff’s dept. is currently working with the state Dept. of Boats and Waterways to get the boat off the water. About 90% of the cost of removal, Anderson said, will be paid for by the state; the other 10% will be paid by the county.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Point Reyes Light, USA
Feb. 3, 2005
Peter Jamison

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 3, 2005.
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