Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Family Murder Shocks Police

FRESNO, California -- Police said Saturday that they would charge a Fresno man, Marcus Wesson, with murdering nine of his children, a crime so gruesome and distressing that police officers wept at the sight.

On Friday, the police found six female and three male bodies in Wesson's home in a middle-class neighborhood of Fresno. Three of the children were 1 year old and four others were younger than 9. The other two were a 17-year-old girl and a 24-year-old woman, the police said.

Chief Jerry Dyer of the Fresno police said investigators had an idea of how the nine were killed, but he refused to disclose their theory. The bodies were found in one small bedroom, some of them in a pile.

"This is the worst mass murder we've ever had," Dyer said.

The police and neighbors Saturday described the household as reclusive and given to unusual behavior.

Patrick Collazo said Wesson would never talk to him or other neighbors. "You were lucky to get a wave out of them," Collazo said.

But Collazo said he would see the women of the house come out at 11 p.m. each night to rake pine needles on the lawn. The chief said investigators had been told Wesson was a "controlling" man who sometimes pulled women by their hair.

Wesson's relationships with women and his own children were a subject of speculation on Saturday. Police said they were looking into reports that the family practiced polygamy and that there had been incest. Two of Wesson's slain children were also his grandchildren, the chief said.

"We are trying to determine if it is a cult, a sect, a different belief system, or something else," he said.

Lieutenant Art Alvarado said that officers were dispatched to Wesson's neighborhood around 2:15 p.m. on Friday for a child-custody issue. When they arrived, two women said they had been trying to pick up their children from Wesson's house.

"At first he was cooperative and said he would release the children," Alvarado said. "But during the conversation he reneged, ran into the bedroom," and locked himself inside.

The two women told the police that Wesson had a firearm, so police called in negotiators and a SWAT team. They surrounded the house for more than an hour.

"During the wait, police didn't hear anything, no screaming or yelling," Alvarado said. "While police were setting up, he came out and surrendered."

Officers saw stains on Wesson that looked like blood, the lieutenant said. The police then detained Wesson and searched the house.

They discovered a pile of bodies in one room and 10 coffins of various sizes in another. Wesson was then arrested.

Because the room was so small and the bodies were piled up, it took several hours for investigators to count them all, the police said.

"There were several officers, including myself, that shed some tears at the scene, especially when the children were removed," Dyer said. "It's very disturbing."

The department called in counselors for some of the investigators.

Robert Hensel, Fresno's chief deputy coroner, said that his office was having trouble identifying some of the victims "because some of them are so young, we have no fingerprints."