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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Fresno Police News Conference.

Aired March 13, 2004 - 19:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And as promised, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer stepping up to the microphone there on these gruesome murders out there in Fresno.

CHIEF JERRY DYER, FRESNO POLICE: ... obviously we need to share nationwide. We're not able to give all of the specific details of this case due to the fact that we have not contacted about 10 to 12 immediate family members and therefore, some of the details and the specific information that perhaps they have we do not want to release until we've had an opportunity to speak with them.

I'd like to recap some of the details that did occur last night, as we know them. Much of this has been shared with the news media yesterday and yesterday evening. But the Fresno Police Department received a call at approximately 2:15 in the afternoon of a child custody dispute that was occurring at 761 West Hammond in Fresno.

As officers arrived approximately 20 minutes later, they contacted two females, adults, who were outside of this residence. These females stated that each one of them had children, two children, that were inside of the residence and the individual that was in there suspect Marcus Wesson had been given custody of them and had refused to turn the children to the mother.

Officers made attempts to communicate with Wesson as he remained inside. There was a conversation that occurred. Wesson refused to let officers inside of the residence and refused to let the two women inside as well. At some point during this conversation with officers, Wesson ran into a back bedroom. He locked the door, barricaded himself inside, and it was at that point that officers were told that perhaps Wesson was armed with a firearm.

At that point the officers made the decision to slow the call down. They summoned negotiators out to the scene and also requested the presence of a SWAT team. The negotiators did arrive. However, Wesson would not communicate with the officers. Prior to the SWAT team arriving and being deployed, and we estimate this time would have been within the hour, suspect Wesson did reappear, walked out of the bedroom into the front room and ultimately out the front door of the residence where he was contacted by officers and at that point it was when officers noticed that Wesson did have blood on his clothing.

Wesson was detained, handcuffed, was cooperative at this point. Officers then entered the residence to do a protective sweep, to determine what was inside and upon entering the bedroom they discovered that there were several victims that were deceased, appeared to be deceased. Initially we thought the number of individuals was seven due to the fact that the bodies were positioned on top of one another, and as well as the fact that there was a lot of clothing that was strewn about the room and intertwined with the bodies.

We later determined that there were actually nine people that were inside of the residence. We have a 24-year-old female, a 17- year-old female. We also have a 8-year-old female, 7-year-old female, a 7-year-old male, a 4-year-old male, a 1-year-old male, and two 1- year-old females.

At that point the paramedics were requested. They were -- each of the individuals were pronounced deceased and at that point we began our investigation. We also learned that the custody dispute occurred probably about an hour and a half before the officers actually arrived on scene. We have information that the two women that were out front actually had some type of confrontation with the folks inside and at one point, a - one of the children while inside of the residence, there was some type of a physical disturbance between two women as to who would have custody of this child.

That child would have been 8 years old tomorrow. That child was later found deceased in the bedroom. We have not been able to determine at this point when the deaths occurred, when the murders occurred. However, we have received different accounts from some of the neighbors regarding gunshots. We are not certain as to whether gunshots actually occurred or were heard prior to the officers arriving or once the officers arrived on scene and had set up.

We do know that no children were ever seen outside of the residence either prior to the officers arriving or after the officers arrived on scene. We've also not been able to confirm the cause of death at this time for each of the victims. However, I will say that based on the physical evidence that we have collected, as well as the observations of the officers at the scene, we have strong suspicions as to how each of those deaths occurred. But again, we're not able to release that information at this point.

We do believe that Wesson and his family have lived at the 761 West Hammond address for the past eight months. We also believe that he has lived in the Fresno area over the past three years. This is obviously the worst mass murder case that we have had in the history of our city. In 1993, we did have a shooting that occurred in rural Fresno where seven people were shot and killed.

Obviously, having nine victims in our city, as well as the fact that many of these were children, is certainly the most tragic that we have ever experienced as a law enforcement agency. In fact, this single incident has quadrupled the murder rate in our city in one night. For the first two and a half months of this year we had only had three murders in our city, a city of 450,000 people and today we have 12 murders.

Marcus Wesson has been interviewed periodically throughout the evening and is still in our custody of headquarters. He has been very cooperative with the interviews. He is talking to investigators at this time. I can't release the details of those communications, but he is being cooperative with this. And within the next few hours Marcus Wesson will be charged with nine counts of Penal Code Section 187, murder, and he will be booked at Fresno County Jail.

And as a concluding statement, I'd just like to tell you about the type of community that we have in Fresno. We've already received several calls from people within our community, several of the entities that have requested that they be able to take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the funeral arrangements for free for all nine of the victims, to cover the cost of the caskets, to cover the cost of the grave, the plots, the headstones and everything, and that truly speaks volumes about the type of folks that live in Fresno and the fact that they have a caring attitude.

This has been a tragic incident for our agency, for our officers. We have gone through some emotional difficulties. Our officers that were first on scene are receiving counseling psychologically and spiritually from our chaplains, as well as psychologists. We'll have an assessment done of them before they're actually allowed to return to work.

And with that, I'll open it to questions.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... being carried out by the coroner. Is there any indication that these bodies were intact?

DYER: We can't comment on the way the bodies were found. I can tell you that there were no mutilations, if that's what you're referring to. These bodies were intact. They were carried out of the residence by the coroner's office...

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