Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marcus Wesson: Control, Incest and Murder

Shiftless Life

The Santa Cruz Moutains
The Santa Cruz Moutains
Beginning in the early 80s, the family squatted in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a large army tent, according to neighbors. Wesson didn't work and attended church meetings almost nightly.

"He shunned money because he said there was a better way — give your heart to God and he'll provide," Ron Wonhoutka told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The family also lived on a on a 23-foot sailboat that was permanently moored in the Santa Cruz marina. The kids would scrounge for bottles and cans on the beach to turn in for recycling money and bathe in the public restrooms.

Local officials soon caught wind that a sailboat owner was living off public generosity and in 1989, charged Wesson with welfare fraud and perjury. He pleaded guilty and spent six months in the county jail.

By the fall of 2003, the family had moved onto a 63-foot tugboat in Tomales Bay, an hour north of San Francisco. The concrete-and-wood boat was rotting and didn't have a bathroom. In the tiny village of Marshall (population 50) where it was moored, the Wesson family stood out as eccentric loners. The sight of the Wesson girls — dressed in long black skirts and veils — rowing their father ashore in a dinghy turned many heads.

"They rowed him like they were slaves," one resident told the Marin Independent Journal. "I had (them) pegged as some sort of Jonestown cult."

The kids kept to themselves, rarely talking to locals and avoiding eye contact. Residents noticed that several of the girls had lisps and that even in hot weather they wore clothes covering their bodies from neck to ankle.

The Wesson Home
The Wesson Home
At one point four or five of the girls were pregnant.  Although they had jobs at a nearby convention center, their father controlled their paychecks to the point where they were forced to pool their nickels and dimes to buy food at the general store, residents told the Point Reyes Light.   

In the fall of 2003, sheriff's deputies ruled the tugboat unsafe for children and ordered it vacated. The family moved to Fresno soon afterward, where they bought a 1,066-square-foot converted office building on W. Hammond Ave. and parked a yellow school bus in the driveway.

They didn't try to assimilate into the tight working class neighborhood. The kids rarely left the house, and the women didn't engage in over-the-fence pleasantries. They kept their eyes to themselves, hung their heads submissively whenever they were spoken to, and mumbled their responses.

City officials told Wesson that the school bus was too large to park in the neighborhood and that their home didn't meet standards for residential housing. They were given until March 12, 2004 to resolve these zoning issues. One can only speculate as to whether or not the impending deadline set into motion the horrific events that occurred that same afternoon. 


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