There is nothing unusual about believing in monsters as a child, but chances are you eventually stopped asking your parents to check under your bed. At some point, most children stop believing the bogeyman is waiting in the closet for them to drift off to dreamland, but anyone who reads true crime stories can tell you, without hesitation, monsters are real. They don’t present with horns or a tail, and we often don’t recognize them for what they are until it is too late, yet they move amongst us every day of our life.
On March 12, 2004, a monster would emerge from the shadows; a self-proclaimed vampire god, clothing soaked with blood. But who was he, and what events led to this massacre?
The answer you receive when posing this question depends greatly on who you ask. One of Wesson’s sisters sees the young boy who loved animals, and who she felt had a natural gift for healing. Their mother related a story, when she told her son a dog he was caring for couldn’t possibly survive, yet Wesson appeared to intuitively know what to do for the animal, nursing it back from the brink of death. Wesson’s children all say he was a loving father, involved in every aspect of their lives.
In contrast, police and prosecutors will more than likely tell you that Wesson is evil incarnate. Any love that Marcus Wesson bestowed upon his children, was tainted by perversion. How then did the Wesson accused of these horrific atrocities develop from the kind, nurturing young man his sibling and mother remember? Let’s begin with a little more background information.
Born Marcus Delon Wesson on August 22, 1946, in Kansas, to Benjamin; reportedly a violent and abusive alcoholic, and Carrie; a religious fanatic, according to her son. Wesson would live a relatively uneventful life until he became obsessed with religion — a religion of his own making one most of us would label a cult. Wesson stated Jesus Christ was a vampire and then proclaimed himself to be, at times, Jesus Christ, and at other times, God. Wesson declared himself a vampire god, and although he could twist the scriptures in the Bible to reflect his teachings, before long he was writing his own version that reflected his strange beliefs.
His favorite game to play as a child was a preacher leading his flock, where he could be the center of attention. That childhood game never stopped for Wesson, it merely grew more bizarre. The Seventh Day Adventist beliefs he had been raised upon would be combined with Wesson’s personal beliefs in polygamy, and incest. He believed that he and his family were like vampires, but different because they had souls; whereas vampires were prevented from moving around in daylight because they were soulless.
Wesson was an unimpressive student, not even earning enough credits to graduate from high school. While he was allowed to participate in his class’s graduation exercises, Wesson never received a diploma. By most recollections, Wesson was a quiet individual, often fading into the background. Similarly, childhood acquaintances say he never allowed himself to be pressured by classmates to try drugs or alcohol. Despite Wesson’s size, he was usually more inclined to be bullied rather than bully anyone himself. His peers recall it was his appearance, not his academics, that made him stand out. While other students dressed in jeans and t-shirts, Wesson wore dress pants and button up shirts with a tie.
But no one, not even his own mother, could see any resemblance between the quiet young man with the crew cut, who loved electric trains, to the 300-pound dreadlocked monster the world was introduced to in 2004. Could it really be true that the man who was once an orderly and ambulance driver in the Army, might be guilty of the multiple murders he stood charged with? What made him go from saving lives to taking them?
It is alleged that Wesson’s father had molested him, and his siblings. On the witness stand, Wesson’s sister didn’t come right out and confirm this, but she did state that when their father was drinking, he was much more inclined to hug and kiss them. The children knew the best way to avoid unwanted physical affection, when their father Benjamin was drunk, was to hide until he sobered up. In fact, a childhood friend of Wesson’s testified that Benjamin had once offered to pay him $50 in exchange for oral sex.
Wesson’s father would eventually run off with a male cousin, with whom he was having a homosexual affair. That incestuous affair seems to have gone on for a decade before Wesson’s father then reappeared to take on his paternal duties once again, as if nothing happened. Perhaps this is where Wesson got the idea that it was somehow okay to carry on sexual relations within your own family and that fathers had special ways of “loving” their children.
It is unknown just how much Wesson’s mother, Carrie, knew about the abuse and incest her husband perpetrated upon his children. Likewise for Elizabeth, whom Wesson would marry and start a family with. She went on to deny that she knew anything about Wesson touching the girls, or about taking them as his wives and lovers, even with resounding evidence that clearly shows otherwise. More than one time, it was alleged at trial, Elizabeth had walked in to find one of the girls performing oral sex on her husband. She firmly denies this ever occurred. She also said she never suspected Wesson was the father of her daughters’ and nieces’ babies; she never asked who the babies’ father was, insisting that if the girls wanted her to know, they would have told her.
Is it possible that over a decade of incest, resulting in multiple children, could go on under the same roof without anyone suspecting? If you believe Elizabeth, Wesson, and even some of her sons, the answer is yes. It is difficult to imagine that in the small spaces the large family occupied, secrets that dark could be kept for so many years. Events in the 20th century would teach us that when family members are under a strong psychological hold, as seen within other “families,” such as the Manson family, the Branch Davidians, and members of Jonestown, perhaps it is simply a self-survival technique to believe and do what you’re told, no matter what.
When we read about criminals, we don’t merely want the gory details of the crimes, but we long to understand the rationale. If we could get inside the mind of the criminal, we might be able to decipher what went wrong and why. Many people have built careers attempting to understand the criminal mind, and yet, all too often, we are left with far more questions than answers.
Wesson was discharged from the Army in 1968, and quickly took up with a married woman named Rosemary Maytorena. Nearly a decade and a half older, Rosemary already had several children of her own. It wasn’t long, however, before she had a son with Wesson, whom she named Adair. Wesson might have been happy with the new role of proud papa, but instead he was far happier spending time with Rosemary’s eight-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
Wesson’s interest in Elizabeth soon became physical. He quietly “wed” Elizabeth in an unofficial home ceremony, just as he would his daughters and nieces in the years to come. As his desire grew, he knew he had a decision to make; surely, the quiet girl would want to save herself for marriage. When Elizabeth was still in middle school, Wesson told her he had permission from her mother for the couple to marry. Wesson made the relationship official and wed his young bride, beginning a marriage that would span three decades.
The couple lived on one story of the house, while Elizabeth’s mother, Rosemary, Wesson’s ex-lover and mother of his eldest son, lived on a separate level. Wesson had already begun creating his unconventional family. The friction and tension of the living situation continued to worsen and Wesson decided it was time for him and Elizabeth to find other living arrangements. Wesson informed Rosemary that he needed her van to move the couple and their few belongings. When Rosemary balked, Wesson told her he would: either take the van, or take Adair, the son he’d had with her — the choice was hers. Wesson and Elizabeth left Adair behind as they drove away in the van.
In the beginning of their marriage, Wesson worked briefly in a bank. The man who, as a teen, dressed conservatively in button down shirts and ties seemed to enjoy donning a suit and heading off to work. It didn’t last long, though, and Wesson was soon unemployed, dependent on the government aid his wife was able to receive. He would tell acquaintances over the years that he had worked in a bank, dabbled in real estate, and been a junk dealer for a while — most of which couldn’t be verified and were most likely embellishments.
The couple would go on to have ten children together, with one son dying from meningitis as an infant. Wesson even took in a number of Elizabeth’s nieces and nephews, per her sister’s request. Solorio was battling a serious drug addiction at the time. The children had been neglected by their mother, and abused and molested by people associated with their mother and her addiction. They were eager to move into the Wesson home, where they believed they would be safe. Wesson would go on to “marry” and have children with three of these nieces: Ruby Ortiz, Rosa and Sofina, sometimes called Sofia. These marriages were in addition to those with two of his own daughters.
The pattern that began with Elizabeth, the interruption of education and isolation, was a pattern and repeated with Wesson’s children, and the nieces and nephews he had taken in. Sofina, 11-years-old at the time, recalled: her uncle told her she would no longer be attending public school because Wesson planned on homeschooling the children, supplementing general course studies with hours of preaching his own bizarre beliefs. However, the truth of the matter was, the children received little, if any, homeschooling education. Sometimes the older girls would play “teacher” to the younger children; schooling seemed to consist of drawing pictures and coloring.
A trait that Wesson shared with his father, aside from the sickening proclivity towards incest and child molestation, was his clear refusal to work a steady job. Although thought of as fairly intelligent, and without any physical disability that would prevent him from working, Wesson adhered to the belief that the head of the household did not work. The large family, who subsisted on welfare and food stamps, moved often. Living arrangements varied frequently, including: a shack without running water and electricity, on a tugboat, and even times their home was an Army tent in the woods. Another example of Wesson’s eccentricity; although the family was camping in a second-hand tent without electricity or running water, he carpeted the floor of the tent.
Over the years Wesson owned several boats — all in various states of disrepair. It was one of these rundown boats that would draw attention from authorities. When it was discovered Wesson hadn’t claimed the boat while receiving government benefits, he was charged with welfare fraud. The city stated he had failed to list the vessel as an asset, defrauding the government of almost $25,000.
Had the boat been the family’s primary residence, Wesson would have been able to avoid it being considered an excess, or asset. But by the time Wesson attempted to claim this, it was too late. So he tried a different tactic: he wrote to the judge who was asked to preside over the case in a number of letters totaling nearly 80 pages. In his ramblings, Wesson stated not only was he aware of being investigated, but he himself was investigating the IRS, under the guise of actor Richard Widmark.
Clearly Wesson had issues, but there is no proof anyone from child and family services ever investigated the children’s living environment, or their health and safety. These weren’t children taken regularly to the pediatrician for wellness visits. They didn’t go to public school, where a concerned teacher might have noticed signs of abuse. They were intentionally kept segregated from the outside world by their father. He knew the world would not accept his philosophies and teachings. Only after the deaths in 2004, would DNA testing provide proof that Wesson had fathered children he knew would be taken away, if the truth of their parentage were made known.
Looking back, a decade prior to the 2004 murders, Wesson gathered his family around the television, forcing them to watch the violence and destruction taking place a few states away. In Waco, Texas, David Koresh was waging war against the federal government to protect his constitutional rights regarding freedom of religion, and the right to live and raise a family as he saw fit. Wesson told his family there would be training for the “strongest soldier” like the Branch Davidians, who had holed up in their compound with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition.
If the government threatened the family, Wesson said they were to follow the plans of the murder-suicide pact he had formulated. Wesson also thought Koresh’s idea of having as many children as possible was clearly something ordained by God. At the time of the second coming of Christ, Wesson professed, the more children you could turn over to God, the greater your eternal reward. Therefore, Wesson would begin having as many children as he could, both with his own daughters and nieces.
House of Elizabeth
Since the tragedy, people have often asked why Wesson’s wife, Elizabeth, the only person to whom he was legally wed, didn’t try to put a stop to the incest and abuse. We can’t, in good conscious, excuse Elizabeth’s inaction or failure to protect the children she had given birth to, nor the nieces and nephews in her care. We can’t be sure how much Elizabeth was aware of, although it seems she must have known more than she is willing to admit, and quite possibly was in deep denial about what took place during the years she was married to Wesson.
Elizabeth had been taken in by Wesson at such a young age and kept so isolated that she really only knew the life he had shown her. Although Wesson and Elizabeth each listed themselves as “student” on their marriage license, Elizabeth stopped attending school during eighth grade. Her lack of education served Wesson well, keeping her dependent upon him. One of Elizabeth and Wesson’s sons would testify at the murder trial that if his mother didn’t know about the things taking place in the house, as she professed, she would have to be pretty dumb.
It seemed that Elizabeth lived in a self-imposed state of denial, catering to her husband’s every whim and attempting to keep peace and avoid making waves. If Wesson wanted to dine on fast food, while the rest of the family was forced to scavenge dumpsters for food, he did. If he wanted to eat cookies, while putting Elizabeth and the children on a sugar-free diet made up primarily of pinto beans and vegetables along with stale bread, he was the man of the house, and his word was law.
Although, following the murders, neighbors reported there were noxious smells coming from the house when the family prepared meals, no one said anything. The owner of a small convenience store the kids frequented while living on one of the boats, told reporters later she wondered what was going on when Sebhrena entered the store, apparently pregnant, and other girls began buying disposable diapers as well. She knew the girls at that time had no social life and very little contact with the outside world, but she said nothing at the time. If the girls walked away from Wesson while he was still speaking, neighbors later said, he would grab their hair and jerk them back violently. The long sleeve shirts, ankle-length skirts, and scarves on their heads could just have easily been about hiding bruises and other signs of abuse, as it was about satisfying Wesson’s idea of modest dress for girls. Still, no one spoke up on behalf of the children.
While on the witness stand at her husband’s murder trial, Elizabeth was asked why Wesson didn’t work, to which she replied that you aren’t allowed to work while receiving welfare. As ludicrous as this may sound, Elizabeth, in many ways, still inhabited the “concrete thinking” of a small child. It never occurred to her to think that if her husband worked, then they wouldn’t need to receive welfare. As Wesson assured outsiders, the Lord would always provide everything they needed without the necessity of him working. He was following God’s instructions and was His chosen one.
As Wesson developed his teachings and beliefs, he reinforced the idea that his word would and should never be questioned; his family must keep silent and obey. The girls learned this lesson early on through his version of “loving.” The girls submitted to his physical advances, his caressing of their breasts and their crotches through their underwear because that was what they were instructed to do. Wesson believed it was his job as head of the family and their father to train them how to perform acts that would be pleasing to their husbands someday. As the girls grew older and developed physically, Wesson became concerned about other males in the house, besides himself, becoming attracted to the girls. He ordered his sons and nephews to keep their distance, even forcing the boys and girls to live separately as an added precaution. He didn’t want anyone else touching his property.
At one time, after learning his son, Almae, was interested in dating a niece of Elizabeth’s by marriage, he wrote an edict for the boys which he titled, The House of Elizabeth. In the 14-page handwritten document, Wesson stated he had set his sons “free” and ordered them to “stay away from” the women in the house. If Almae failed to discontinue his pursuit of the young woman, Wesson warned the end result would be a family prayer, in which he would ask God to “remove the offending entity.” Wesson summed things up by saying: “Get a life! Find your own women as God has commanded.”
The loyalty the family displayed for Wesson, even after all the abuse he’d committed, was staggering. His children would profess he was a good father, and although diaries the girls kept at the time reflected happy moments in the family’s life, there was also sadness and pain. Each time during the murder trial one of the girls was asked to read a journal entry from the time they had lived with Wesson, they did so with reluctance and seemed ashamed to share times they were unhappy, even depressed; as though the admissions were a betrayal of their Master.
When quizzed on the witness stand during her husband/father’s murder trial, one of Wesson’s daughters, Kiani, stated that had her daughter not been killed that day in March 2004, she wouldn’t have wanted her growing up in that house the way she had. The prosecution pressured her, asking if it was because Wesson might start “loving” their daughter as he had her. She managed to avoid answering the question directly. The prosecutor pressed her on the issue, she looked down at her ring finger, which still held the ring her father had given her when they were “wed.” Stifling tears, Kiani replied she had wanted a different life for her daughter.
Wesson’s male children were encouraged to leave the house as soon as they were able to support themselves. He wasn’t taking any chances with competition from them, or have them challenge his authority. He had everyone under his influence; as the girls began showing obvious signs of pregnancy, he went so far as telling the boys they had been artificially inseminated. With the psychological hold Wesson had over his family, they accepted this explanation without question and learned not to ask questions. If you got out of line and forgot, Wesson wasn’t opposed to wielding a baseball bat to help you remember your place. Wesson’s son, Serafino, said he endured 30 consecutive days of beatings by his father for sneaking a spoonful of peanut butter. Wesson kept a stick wrapped in layers of duct tape handy for occasions such as this. The tape might have padded the stick enough to prevent breaking any major bones during the beating, but the psychological damage from the abuse left lasting scars.
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