Fresno means “Ash Tree” and reminiscent of many cities in California began under Mexican rule. As the city emerged into a rich blend of metropolitan life mixed with small town living, this culturally diverse city has grown to a population surpassing 400,000 people with 90 different nationalities.
Fresno climate is moderate and the town is located near three of America’s national parks: Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The city is home to many famous racing drivers, including well known Bill Vukovich.
Fresno reported 42 homicides and 3,780 total violent crimes in 2002. There were 36 murders in Fresno last year, down 14% from the year before. In the first two and one half months of 2004, the city had seen only three murders, the fewest in more than three decades a California paper reported. Those statistics drastically changed on March 12, 2004.
Responding to a child custody dispute on Friday afternoon at a small home at 761 W. Hammon Avenue near Roeding Park, Fresno police found nine bodies stacked in a bedroom entwined in a pile of clothes. Ruby Sanchez and Sofina Solorio had went to the house in an attempt to take their two children, Aviv Dominique Wesson (mother—Ruby Sanchez) and Johnathon St. Charles Wesson (mother--Sofina Solorio). The children were living with Marcus Wesson.
Wesson initially ignored instructions by law enforcement to come out of the house and ran into a back bedroom as two women, who were unharmed, fled the house. After a two-hour standoff, Marcus Wesson, 57, was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Officer Jerry Dyer, a police officer for 25 years, said about the scene: “…I’ve never experienced anything of this nature.” (The Fresno Bee, 3/13/04) The crime was so gruesome many of the officers were placed on administrative leave and counseling.
The victims were seven children from 1 to 8, a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl. It was thought that all were children of the suspect, Marcus Wesson.
As police attempted to piece together this grizzly puzzle, Wesson, who remained in custody with bail set at $9 million, remained calm and cooperated with police. Law enforcement spent hours at the crime scene gathering evidence. Identifying the bodies was difficult since some of the women involved were afraid to come forward. As new information was unveiled, it became clear that the sorted details leading up to the tragic ending of nine lifes was laced with words like polygamy, incest, rituals, and cults.