updated 3/9/2005 12:08:14 AM ET 2005-03-09T05:08:14

The niece of a man charged with killing nine of his children gave graphic testimony Tuesday about the sexual abuse she suffered in his household, describing years of strict discipline, repeated rape and discussions about “having babies for the Lord.”

Sofina Solorio testified that Marcus Wesson began sexually abusing her when she was 12. He called the acts he performed with his nieces and daughters “loving” and told them he was preparing them for marriage.

As the girls grew up, he started asking them if they wanted to “have children for the Lord,” Solorio said. One by one, the girls agreed.

Solorio, 28, was the second among his daughters and nieces to have a child by the defendant, a boy she named Jonathon St. James Wesson.

The boy was among the nine people found dead in a back bedroom of Wesson’s Fresno home on March 12, the day Solorio returned to the Wesson home to rescue her child. He was 9.

Eight of the victims ranged in age from 1 to 17 and were stacked in a pile along with the body of Wesson’s 25-year-old daughter, Sebhrenah.

Wesson, 58, has been charged with murder and with several counts of sexual abuse of minors. He pleaded innocent to all counts.

Shot through the eye
Among those killed were seven children Wesson allegedly had with his daughters and nieces, and two of Wesson’s daughters by his wife.

All of the victims had been shot once through the eye with a .22-caliber handgun.

Solorio and others who grew up in the Wesson home said the family patriarch told his children over the years that it was better to die — to kill themselves and others — than to allow a government agency to break up the family. The prosecution may seek to show that Wesson brainwashed the victims to the point where they were ready to commit suicide on command.

For Wesson’s nieces and daughters, the abuse in the home escalated from touching and oral sex to intercourse, Solorio said. The girls were forced to perform sexual acts on Wesson and on each other as he watched, according to testimony.

Jurors recoil
Several jurors recoiled at the descriptions, but Solorio kept an even voice, never once looking at the defendant.

Wesson also held wedding ceremonies — rituals in which he told two of his teenage daughters and three of his nieces he was marrying them, even giving them gold wedding bands. The girls all wore the bands on their ring finger, Solorio said.

Even as the girls were being sexually abused in the home, they had to dress modestly — covering their hair, wearing long skirts and avoiding any contact with boys.

Infractions, such as being caught laughing with their brothers, were punished by beatings with a stick wrapped in duct tape, Solorio said.

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