FRESNO, California (AP) — In graphic testimony that made some jurors recoil, the niece of a man charged with killing nine of his children described the sexual abuse she endured while living in his household.
Sofina Solorio testified Tuesday that the abuse by Marcus Wesson escalated from touching to oral sex to intercourse.
Wesson forced his nieces and daughters to perform sexual acts on him and on each other as he watched, according to testimony.
Solorio, 28, was the second among Wesson’s daughters and nieces to have a child by the defendant, a boy she named Jonathon St. James Wesson.
Jonathon was one of the nine people found dead in a back bedroom of Wesson’s Fresno home on March 12, 2004, the day Solorio returned to the house to rescue her 9-year-old son.
Eight of the victims ranged in age from 1 to 17 and were stacked in a pile along with the body of Wesson’s 25-year-old daughter.
Wesson, 58, has been charged with murder and with several counts of sexual abuse of minors. He pleaded innocent to all counts.
Among those killed were seven children Wesson allegedly had with his daughters and nieces, and two of Wesson’s daughters by his wife.
All of the victims had been shot once through the eye with a .22-caliber handgun.
Solorio and others who grew up in the Wesson home said the family patriarch told his children over the years that it was better to die — to kill themselves and others — than to allow a government agency to break up the family. The prosecution may seek to show that Wesson brainwashed the victims to the point where they were ready to commit suicide on command.
Solorio testified that Wesson began sexually abusing her when she was 12. He called the acts he performed with his nieces and daughters “loving” and told them he was preparing them for marriage.
As the girls grew up, he started asking them if they wanted to “have children for the Lord,” Solorio said. One by one, the girls agreed.
Wesson also held wedding ceremonies, Solorio said. He told two of his teenage daughters and three of his nieces he was marrying them, even giving them gold wedding bands.
The girls had to dress modestly, covering their hair, wearing long skirts and avoiding any contact with boys. Infractions, such as being caught laughing with their brothers, were punished by beatings with a stick wrapped in duct tape, Solorio said.