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The Vampire King of Fresno: Marcus Wesson's Sickening Crimes

A tale of incestuous abuse ended in a chilling mass murder.

Mass murderer Marcus Wesson in prison.
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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

In 2004, Fresno, California saw it's most gruesome mass murder to date. The story, however, goes far deeper than simple murder, extending to fraud, sex crimes, physical abuse, and a homegrown cult.

The perpetrator of all of this? The Vampire King of Fresno, Marcus Wesson.

On March 12, 2004, the Fresno police were called to the Wesson residence for what was presented as a child custody issue. Wesson had previously announced plans to relocate himself and several of his children to Washington state, and members of his extended family arrived to the home to object.

The result was a standoff that ended in the death of nine people at Wesson's hand.

Who is Marcus Wesson?

Marcus Wesson was born on August 22, 1946 in Kansas. The oldest of four kids, his family was active in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. According to the now 77-year-old, his childhood was a troubled one.

His mother, Carrie, was allegedly a religious fanatic, while Wesson claimed his father, Benjamin, was an alcoholic who often became physically abusive—before abandoning his family all together. These factors may have mapped the course of Wesson's horrific crimes.

During Wesson's adolescence, his family had moved to San Bernardino, California. Wesson never completed high school, choosing to pursue work in the army instead. From 1966 to 1968 he served the U.S. Army as an ambulance driver. The real trouble started when his time in the military came to an end.

Wesson took up residence in San Jose with an older woman named Rosemary Solorio and her eight children. By 1971, Solorio had given Wesson a son. Three years later, Wesson started sexually abusing eight-year-old Elizabeth Solorio. When she turned 14, he married her, despite being 20 years her senior.

Within for months, Elizabeth had Wesson's baby. It would be the first of 10, including an infant that passed away.

Wesson and Elizabeth would also come to care for seven children from Elizabeth's younger sister, as the woman claimed to be unable to care for them due to an addiction to drugs.

Marcus Wesson's Crimes

Taking care of 16 children is no easy task. Most of the time the family was bouncing around between tents, boats, crumbling shacks, and vacant houses.

While Wesson lived off of welfare, he sent his grown children out to work, collecting all of their earnings for himself. While the children ate out of garbage cans, Wesson treated himself to fast food. This led to his first criminal conviction, welfare fraud, and perjury charges in 1989.

What the justice system failed to act on was the horrific abuse going on in Wesson's home. To call him a controlling force in the home would be an understatement. He wouldn't let Elizabeth be involved in the rearing of their children, and he kept them out of school to impart his own form of schooling.

Wesson taught the children out of a handwritten Bible that insisted Jesus Christ was a vampire. He preached to the children that he himself was God, and made them refer to him only as “Master” or “Lord.”

Much of their education was focused on preparing for Armageddon.

While both Wesson's sons and daughters were physically abused, the girls were paid special attention. It was understood that each of his daughters was destined to become a future wife to Wesson.

They had responsibilities that included washing Wesson's hair and scratching his armpits. The girls were forbidden to talk to their brothers and mother. Their schooling involved education in oral sex, beginning as early as eight years old.

Wesson had forcible relations with two of his daughters and three of his nieces. All five of the girls became pregnant as a result of it.

When Wesson tried to move his daughters and their children out of California, his extended family had enough. Several family members objected, including two of his nieces.

They arrived at his compound with demands to have their children returned to them. When the Fresno police arrived expecting a simple child custody issue, they were vastly underprepared for the situation unfolding.

The police knocked on Wesson's door, and when Wesson spoke with them, he requested they wait for a moment there. He disappeared inside, and when he returned he was covered in blood.

While the Fresno police claim they heard no gunshots in the time he was gone, several other witnesses have testified that they heard shots fired.

When the police finally went inside, they found nine victims, as follows: Wesson's 25-year-old daughter Sebhrenah, his 17-year-old daughter Elizabeth, his eight-year-old daughter/granddaughter Illabelle, his seven-year-old daughter/grand-niece Aviv, his seven-year-old son/grand-nephew Johnathon, his four-year-old son/grand-nephew Ethan, his one-year-old son/grandson Marshey, his one-year-old daughter/granddaughter Jeva, and his one-year-old daughter/grand-niece Sedona.

Each of his murdered children had been shot through the eye. Their bodies were found in a bedroom full of antique coffins.

Marcus Wesson Trial and Charges

Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Gamoian was the prosecutor for Wesson's trial. Public defenders Peter Jones and Ralph Torres represented Wesson, presenting the defense that the murders were committed by Wesson's daughter, Sebhrenah, who then committed suicide.

A .22 caliber handgun was found with Sebhrenah's body, complete with a DNA sample on the weapon. While this supported Wesson's claim, and the jury could not say that Wesson fired any fatal shots, they still found him guilty on nine counts of first-degree murder. It was almost certain that he had manipulated his children into a suicide pact.

In addition to his murder convictions, Wesson was also found guilty on 14 counts of forcible rape, as well as the molestation of seven of his daughters and nieces.

On June 17, 2005, Marcus Wesson was sentenced to death. However, Governor Gavin Newsom halted executions in the state of California in 2019, and subsequently dismantled death row. As such, Wesson is still serving time in San Quentin State Prison, where he will spend the rest of his days.

Want to dive deeper into Marcus Wesson's twisted case? Get your copy of the gripping true crime account By Their Father's Hand by Monte Francis and start reading tonight!