Emotions swirl in wake of plea

FRESNO – Moments after Marcus Wesson pleaded not guilty last week to murdering nine of his children, the 57-year-old’s daughter defended him and his son affirmed his love.

“Nobody knows Marcus,” Kiani Wesson said Thursday outside the Fresno County courtroom where her father was arraigned on charges that could lead to the death penalty.

Kiani Wesson, also the mother of two of the slain children, said her family has been smeared with false accusations.

“I just wish everyone would stop telling lies out there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’re dealing with a man’s life.”

Kiani Wesson directed a few comments to her uncle Mike Solorio, saying he should “(s)top saying false statements and accusations until he’s acquainted with the full facts.”

Her statements, made during a brief impromptu news conference after her father pleaded not guilty to nine counts of murder and firearm allegations, further exposed a growing rift in Marcus Wesson’s family.

All of the victims were fathered by Wesson with six women, including two of his daughters and three of his nieces, a source close to the investigation has said.

Supporters of Wesson have blamed Ruby Sanchez, 26, and Sofina Solorio, 28, for going to his home near Roeding Park on March 12 to regain custody of their children. After arguing with the women, Wesson retreated to a bedroom and emerged with blood on his clothes.

Police found the nine bodies stacked together inside his home. The victims were shot in the face and they died within minutes of each other, according to death certificates. It was Fresno’s worst mass murder.

Ruby Sanchez’s daughter, Aviv Dominique Wesson, and Sofina Solorio’s son, Jonathan St. Charles Wesson, were among the dead. Both children were 7 years old and were mourned together Wednesday in a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Clovis.

‘He should pay’

Mike Solorio, Marcus Wesson’s brother-in-law, spoke on behalf of family members who have rallied around Sofina Solorio and Ruby Sanchez.

“I’m not trying to put them down,” Mike Solorio said of Wesson’s children, including Kiani, “but their dad was wrong for what he did, and he should pay for it.”

Mike Solorio’s sister is Elizabeth Wesson, Marcus Wesson’s wife. He has said Marcus Wesson had complete control over his family. Wesson did not allow his children to watch television and rarely let them leave the home without him, Solorio said. They did not attend school.

He believes Wesson’s children have struggled with confusion and denial in the two weeks since their father was arrested.

“I still love them,” Solorio said. “But they need to wake up.”

Kiani Wesson, two of her brothers — Almae and Serafino Wesson — and Marcus Wesson’s niece Rosie Solorio attended his court hearing Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

As 19-year-old Serafino Wesson rushed from reporters, he bemoaned security measures that have kept family members from visiting with Marcus Wesson or talking to him on the phone.

“We can’t even talk to him,” said Serafino Wesson, who added that he’d like to “tell him I love him.”

Almae Wesson, 23, and Rosa Solorio, 22, left the downtown courtroom, which is attached to Fresno County Jail, without answering questions.

They all drove off in a turquoise Chevrolet Cavalier, leaving behind a dozen reporters and photographers.

At the arraignment, Pete Jones was appointed to represent Wesson. Jones is the public defender’s chief defense attorney.

Hours before Wesson took his first substantial steps in his legal journey, neighbors huddled near the home at 761 W. Hammond Ave. where the victims were found.

Thursday morning, residents watched as 10 police chaplains boxed up a sidewalk memorial in front of the Wesson home. It was a growing tribute to the nine victims and included 450 candles, stuffed animals, balloons and religious mementos.

Chaplains carefully packed the items into large cardboard boxes that were taken to a storage facility.

Minutes earlier, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer stood in front of the 45-foot-long memorial and called it tangible evidence of the community support of the Wesson family.

“We are hopeful that once this memorial is removed, we can begin the healing process for this neighborhood,” he said.

Members of the Wesson family visited the memorial this week and removed items they wanted to keep, Dyer said.

Dyer said the neighborhood must now return to normal. He asked people not to leave anything else in front of the home.

Keys to the light blue house will be turned over to the Wesson family.

“I would ask members of the community to be respectful of the family,” he said, “and to remember that this is a private residence and not to come onto the property.”

As chaplains packed the memorial, two young women picked through the assortment of flowers, teddy bears and notes left for the family. The women, from San Jose, are friends of the Wesson family, Lt. Pat Farmer said.

One of the women picked up a purple rose and placed it in a box, saying “this one is for Jonathan.”

They filled a couple of boxes and were led away from the memorial by police officers. Tears welled in their eyes as they got into a nearby car.

Neighbors said they were pleased police finally removed the memorial. In the past two weeks, they have grown tired of the constant stream of traffic flooding the street at all hours.

“It’s nice that people care enough to do that, but I’m ready to get my driveway back,” said Brian Caskey, who lives across the street from the Wesson home. “I feel it’s time for it to come down, but I don’t want to step on people’s feelings either.”

Lupe Montejano, who lives two houses away from the Wesson home, said the neighborhood deserves its privacy. He said residents “want their peace and quiet.”

As for what will happen to the Wesson home, Montejano and other neighbors said they haven’t decided whether they agree with city officials who want to purchase the property and turn it into a park. Some suggested turning it into a police substation.

Montejano had his own idea: “Just knock it down and don’t put anything there. Just leave it and let it be.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Fresno Bee, USA
Mar. 28, 2004
Matt Leedy and Kerri Ginis

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday March 31, 2004.
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