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Fresno Dad Faces New Charges

The man accused of shooting nine of his children to death at their home last month pleaded innocent Thursday to 33 additional charges of sexual abuse dating back as far as 1988.

The new accusations against Marcus Wesson include multiple charges of continuous sexual abuse and forcible rape against females who lived with him, but the documents do not specify whether they were family members. Five of the six victims were under 14 when the attacks occurred.

Wesson, 57, already has been arraigned on charges he murdered a 25-year-old woman and eight children ranging in age from 1 to 17. Police said the 25-year-old woman, who was Wesson's daughter, also was the mother of one of the slain children.

Wesson has pleaded innocent to the murder charges and is being held in lieu of $9 million bail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Before the start of Wesson's preliminary hearing Thursday, public defender Pete Jones argued that his office had not yet received all of the new evidence and therefore could not "put on any kind of meaningful defense at this point."

"Defense is not ready to proceed. Mr. Wesson would not be represented by effective counsel at this time," Jones said.

Judge Lawrence Jones ordered the hearing to continue.

Pete Jones said he just learned of the additional charges late Tuesday. He said in an interview outside court that if Wesson is ordered to stand trial, the defense may appeal and seek a second preliminary hearing.

Wesson, whose dreadlocks hang down to his knees, sat shackled Thursday beside his attorneys in the courtroom.

Fresno police have not disclosed a motive for the murders, but said Wesson may have engaged in incest and polygamy. Officers were called to the scene when several of the children's mothers were unable to take their children away from him.

When Wesson emerged from the house with blood on his clothes, he was arrested. The victims were found piled one on top of another, entangled in clothes.

There has been some question as to whether police were on scene before or after the victims were killed.

Fresno Police officer Frank Nelson testified Thursday that he was one of the first officers to respond to the scene. He said he did not hear gunshots.

But Nelson acknowledged under cross examination that the initial dispatch call of a child custody dispute mentioned "something about a gun."

Conflicting reports have come from neighbors, some who claim to have heard gunshots before police arrived and some claiming to have heard the blasts while officers waited outside the home.

Nelson also said he heard an infant crying while he talked to Wesson from outside the doorway of the home. Police have not said when the victims were killed, but coroner's reports indicate they died within moments of being shot.

Two women outside the home claimed to be the mothers of two of the children inside and provided birth certificates as proof, Nelson said.

Nelson said he spoke briefly with Wesson, who stood just inside the home's doorway.

"I told him that the mothers of the children were here to get the kids," Nelson said. "He told me that they were going to get to take the kids but they just needed more time to talk."

Nelson testified that he informed Wesson that without paperwork proving custody, the children would be given back to their mothers. Nelson said Wesson told him the kids were given to him under a verbal agreement.

Nelson said he was distracted for a moment and turned his back. When he turned back around, Wesson had left the doorway and retreated to a back bedroom.

"The door was closed and that was the last time we saw him," Nelson said.

Nelson testified that the two mothers outside told him, "He's going to hurt the kids."

At that point, Nelson called for additional officers.

He said a man who identified himself as Wesson's nephew also told officers Wesson might harm the children.

"He told me that his uncle was like that guy from Waco, that he has multiple wives," Nelson said. "He told me that his uncle would probably kill them before he let anyone take them."

Nelson said he then called for a SWAT team. Wesson surrendered a short time later.

The hearing is expected to last several days.