updated 4/12/2004 7:51:04 PM ET 2004-04-12T23:51:04

A judge ruled Monday that there is enough evidence to try a man accused of killing nine of his children, although defense lawyers suggested the suspect’s oldest daughter shot her siblings before killing herself and leaving the bodies in a bloody pile.

Marcus Wesson, 57, has pleaded innocent to charges he murdered his 25-year-old daughter and eight of his other children ranging in age from 1 to 17. Wesson also faces charges of sexual abuse.

Police allege he committed the slayings himself. But during Monday’s hearing, Ralph Torres, a lawyer for Wesson, asked a Fresno homicide detective about the “suicide pact” police have alleged Wesson had with his children. As part of the alleged plan, the children would kill each other — oldest to youngest — should authorities ever try to break apart the family.

'Religious belief'
Detective Michele Ochoa testified that, according to her interview with Sofina Solorio, one of Wesson’s nieces with whom he had fathered a child, the suicide plan was referred to within the family as a “religious belief.”

Police have said Wesson engaged in a lifestyle of incest and polygamy, fathering children with his daughters and nieces.

Police were initially called to Wesson’s Fresno home when two women claiming to be mothers of children there, one of them identified as Solorio, came to retrieve their offspring. After Wesson emerged with blood on his clothes, police found a pile of bodies inside entangled in bloody clothes. Each of the nine victims was shot once in the eye and, according to coroner’s reports, died almost instantaneously.

Police allege that Wesson held total control over his family and likened himself to God.

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