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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 02:49 GMT 03:49 UK
US father murdered nine children
Marcus Wesson
Wesson is said to have exerted tyrannical control over his family
A US court has convicted a man of killing nine of his children, many of whom he had fathered through incest.

Marcus Wesson, a 58-year-old religious zealot who ran his family like a cult, could face the death penalty.

He was arrested last year after police found nine bodies with identical bullet wounds at his home - a massacre that shocked the Californian town of Fresno.

Wesson's lawyers had argued that eight of the victims were shot dead by his daughter, who then killed herself.

The victims were between one and 25 years old.

The jury took two weeks to convict Wesson on all nine counts of murder.

It also found him guilty of 14 counts of raping and molesting seven of his daughters and nieces.

Distressed police

Mr Wesson fathered children with at least four women, two of whom were his own daughters.

His trial heard how he exercised a tyrannical control over his family, forbidding the women from contact with the outside world and presenting himself as a divinely-inspired preacher.

He told his family they needed to have "babies for the Lord".

The shoot-out appeared to have been sparked when two women to whom Mr Wesson had once been married went to his house to collect the children, but he refused to allow them access.

It took investigators hours to establish the exact number of dead because the bodies were piled up and entangled in a pile of clothing.

Officers who had gone to Mr Wesson's home after being called over a child custody dispute were so distressed at the macabre discovery that some needed counselling.

All the victims had been shot through the eye.

No fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, and it was impossible to determine who had fired the shots.

But the prosecution argued that even if the oldest victim, Sebhrenah, had killed her younger siblings before shooting herself, Wesson was guilty because he had encouraged her.

The court heard evidence from several witnesses that Wesson had told his children repeatedly to be ready to kill each other if the authorities threatened to break up the family.

Fresno, a city some 190 miles (305km) south-east of San Francisco, was shocked over the largest mass killing it had ever witnessed.

US man faces nine murder charges
14 Mar 04 |  Americas
Man 'murdered his nine children'
13 Mar 04 |  Americas


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