Accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson may have spoken about “dying for the Lord,” but his family’s religion preached the same thing, Wesson’s daughter told a Fresno jury this morning.
Kiani Wesson, who has been on the witness stand in Fresno County Superior Court for five days, finally got a chance to explain her father’s teachings, telling jurors that Seventh-day Adventists believe in the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world.
Members of the Wesson family have described themselves as Seventh-day Adventists, however, the family’s relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist church is in dispute.
Though Marcus Wesson spoke of a murder-suicide pact if authorities came to split up the family, Kiani Wesson tearfully testified that she never would have carried out the pact because she loved her family too much to hurt or kill them.
Marcus Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children inside his Fresno home near Roeding Park on March 12, 2004. He also is charged with 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, during cross-examination by her father’s lawyers, said the Wesson household were raised as Seventh-day Adventists, but were not frequent churchgoers.
The religion asked its members to dress modestly — the wearing skirts and dresses, a prohibition against pants — and refrain from eating meat and dairy products, Kiani Wesson said. Her effort was to discount prosecutor Lisa Gamoian’s portrayal of the Wessons as a cult in which the children did everything their father told them to do.
Kiani Wesson testified that Ellen G. White, a prophet in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is responsible for much of the family’s religious beliefs. She also testified that God speaks through her father, as well as other people.
Since being called to testify, Kiani Wesson has had trouble giving detailed answers to Gamoian’s questions. She often says she can’t recall or doesn’t know the answer.
Kiani Wesson explained to jurors that her memory of events on the day of the slayings is sporadic because her children — Illabelle, 8, and Jeva, 1 — were among the victims.
Though Judge R.L. Putnam suggested that Kiani Wesson get a lawyer to protect her from incriminating herself, she said she declined the offer and has been trying to testify truthfully to the best of her ability.
Her testimony will resume after lunch.
Check FresnoBee.com for updates throughout the day and read The Fresno Bee tomorrow for further details.