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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
Death for US family-killer father
Marcus Wesson
Wesson fathered children with two of his daughters
A man who ran his family like a cult has been sentenced to death in the US for killing nine of his children, many of whom he had fathered through incest.

Marcus Wesson, 58, was held after the bodies were found at his home. The victims were aged between one and 25.

His lawyers had said he should get a life sentence, arguing it was his daughter who shot each of the victims in the eye before killing herself.

The killings and the trial have shocked the Californian town of Fresno.

The jury deliberated for two weeks before convicting Wesson on all nine counts of murder earlier this month.

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

Distressed police

Wesson fathered children with at least four women. Two of them were his 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 in 2004 appeared to have been sparked when two of Wesson's ex-wives 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 the house were so distressed at the macabre discovery that some needed counselling.

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 repeatedly told his children 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.

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