Jeff Chiu  /  AP file
Marcus Wesson responds to the media by saying "I love you" as he is led to a police truck in Fresno, Calif., on March 13, 2004.
updated 3/3/2005 6:14:26 PM ET 2005-03-03T23:14:26

A man charged with slaughtering nine of his children and stacking their bodies in his home went on trial Thursday, with prosecutors portraying him as a controlling figure who had sex with some of his daughters and beat the youngsters with baseball bats.

Marcus Wesson, 57, also demanded his children study the Bible for hours a day and forced his daughters to wear dresses and cover their heads at all times, prosecutor Lisa Gamoian said in her opening statement.

Wesson could get the death penalty if convicted of murdering the children, ages 1 to 25. Gamoian said all but one were shot through the right eye with a .22-caliber handgun. The 1-year-old was shot in the left eye.

Wesson’s attorney, Pete Jones, has argued in court papers that his client’s daughter Sebhrenah shot the victims, then killed herself. He noted that Wesson did not have gunshot residue on his hands when he was arrested.

Coffins stacked in living room
Wesson was the only one to emerge alive last March from the back bedroom of the modest one-story house after a tense, hours-long standoff with police. Officers discovered the nine bodies in a bloody tangle and 10 white coffins stacked against the living room walls.

On the day of the killings, several family members had tried to retrieve their children from the Wesson household, Gamoian said. The conflict escalated, and they called the police for help, crying hysterically and saying that Wesson was dangerous.

One of the women, 28-year-old Sofina Solorio, was able to see her child briefly before she was shoved aside and Wesson retreated into the home.

“That’s the last time she saw her son alive,” Gamoian said.

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