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9 dead, 10 coffins found in US home
Updated: 2004-03-14 09:23

A man suspected of murdering nine of his family members apparently was involved in polygamy and incest, fathering two of the victims with his own daughters, police said.

Two men, apparently working for the Fresno County Coroner's office, bring out one of several bodies found dead inside a Fresno, California home late March 12, 2004. [Reuters]

The bodies of six females and three males, ages 1 to 24, were found tangled in the back room of in Marcus Wesson's home Friday.

Fresno's largest mass murder ever quadrupled its homicides for the year in a single night and disturbed officers so much that some immediately needed counseling.

Wesson, described by police as ``very calm,'' was arrested Friday after emerging from his home covered in blood.

A woman believed to be a mother of a victim found in a house where nine people were found dead, is restrained in Fresno, California, March 12, 2004. [Reuters]
Wesson, 57, has fathered children with at least four women, two of whom are his own daughters, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Saturday.

``We are exploring the possibility that there were other women he was involved with, either sexually or in some sort of polygamist relationship,'' Dyer said.

An acquaintance of Wesson's said Wesson had lived with five women and appeared to have a romantic relationship with each. The women appeared to be under Wesson's control, walking behind him and not speaking when he was present, Frank Muna said.

``The neighbors felt there was some weird kind of polygamy commune thing going on,'' said Muna, a defense lawyer who sold the remains of his burned-out house to Wesson and the women in 1999.

Wesson moved to a different house about eight months ago, in part because of neighbors' complaints, Muna said.

Police said they believe all the victims are members of Wesson's family - likely children and grandchildren - but they declined to release names pending notification of kin.

Wesson was cooperating with police, who planned to charge him with nine counts of murder, Dyer said.

``If this does not qualify for the death sentence, then there is no case that would,'' Dyer said.

Suspect Marcus Wesson is led from the Fresno, California, house where nine bodies were found. [AP Photo]
Dyer said police planned to serve another search warrant in the case Saturday but would not say where, adding, ``We have not ruled out the involvement of any other suspects.''

Dyer said police believe they know the cause of death, but would not release that information.

``I can tell you that there were no mutilations,'' Dyer said. ``The bodies were intact.''

Six coroners, triple the typical weekend staff, were working Saturday to identify the victims and determine how they were killed, Deputy Fresno County Coroner Sarah Davis said.

Officers were originally called to the home Friday afternoon for a child custody dispute.

Inside was a discovery so grisly it reduced Dyer to tears. The bodies were so entangled in a pile of clothing that it took hours for investigators to reach a final count, police said. Ten coffins lined a wall inside the home's front room.

``What's making it so difficult is the bodies are not only intertwined, but stacked on top of each other,'' Dyer told reporters Friday night. Police were not sure of a motive, but Dyer said ``there may have been some type of ritual'' involved.

Officers were called to the home Friday afternoon by two women who said a man had their children and would not release them.

The man initially ignored orders to come out, running into a back bedroom as two other women fled the house. They were unharmed.

A neighbor, Chris Tognazzini, said he heard two gunshots moments before police arrived.

Dyer said the women who called authorities told them they had given custody of their children to Wesson two years ago and now wanted them back.

The slayings shocked authorities in Fresno, a city of 440,000 about 190 miles (305 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco. Dyer said the city had seen three murders in the last 2 1/2 months, the fewest number for a 10-week period in more than three decades.

The nine deaths represent the largest mass killing ever in this San Joaquin Valley city. Seven people were killed in rural Fresno in 1993.

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