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Nine counts of murder await Fresno slay suspect

Police chief: 10 caskets found at scene

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Nine bodies, most belonging to young children, were found in a Fresno, California, home.
Gallery: Bodies found in Fresno home
Map: Fresno, California
Alan Autry
Fresno, California

FRESNO, California (CNN) -- Police investigating the Friday discovery of nine bodies piled atop one another in a Fresno, California, home plan to charge 57-year-old Marcus Wesson with nine counts of murder, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Wesson, who is in police custody, has been cooperative, Dyer said, but there are still 10 to 12 immediate family members who must be contacted.

Dyer said it appears that Wesson is the father and grandfather of two of the youngest victims. He believes Wesson had children with two of his daughters.

The female victims were 24, 17, 8, 7 and two were just 1 year old. The male victims were 7, 4 and 1.

"If this case, where nine innocent people were killed -- including eight children -- if this does not qualify for the death sentence then there is no case that would," Dyer said.

Police said Wesson lived at the house where the crime took place. He was taken into custody Friday afternoon after a short standoff.

Dyer said his officers interviewed neighbors and four women they think are the mothers of some of the victims.

Wesson is believed to have been in a sexual relationship with at least four women, Dyer said. He is not sure whether the suspect was married to any of them.

Michael Varin, a friend of 21-year-old Marcus Wesson, Jr. -- who was not at the house Friday -- told CNN that the elder Wesson was "a really strange individual" who practiced his own brand of religion.

Dyer said he is not sure about Wesson's religious beliefs and whether they may have played a role in the case.

Police have not discovered a motive at this point, Dyer said.

Varin said Wesson "pretty much controlled the whole family, kept them all isolated. This doesn't really surprise me. That's the worst of it."

Dyer said police believe most or all of the victims lived at the residence. He said neighbors rarely saw the children outside the house but believed they did live there.

Authorities were initially called to the home Friday afternoon, after two women told police they were trying to get custody of children they had turned over to Wesson.

When police arrived, "there were four or five adults in the front part of the residence and two females who were outside who had initially called police," Dyer said. "They were trying to gain entry to regain their children."

Wesson ran to the back part of the house and barricaded himself inside, giving police time to get the other adults out of the house.

Told that Wesson might be armed, police called for the SWAT team, but before they arrived, Wesson came out "and appeared to have blood on him."

Then, Dyer said, police entered the back of the house and discovered the bodies "intertwined and stacked on top of each other."

Clothing was also intertwined with the bodies and scattered around the bedroom where the victims were found, complicating the process of identification.

The Fresno County Coroner's Office performed liver temperature tests on the bodies to determine the time of death. Tests to determine how the victims were killed were also carried out.

Authorities also found 10 empty wooden caskets in the front part of the home, stacked on top of each other, Dyer said. Wesson reportedly told neighbors he had bought the coffins from antique stores for the wood.

Varin told CNN that Wesson "had those for quite some time."

The caskets have not been collected as evidence and do not appear to have played a direct role in the crime, Dyer said.

Distraught officers placed on leave

Several of the police officers who discovered the bodies were so distraught they were placed on paid administrative leave, Dyer said.

"This has been a tragic incident for our agency for our officers. We have gone through some emotional difficulties. Our officers who were first on scene are receiving counseling -- psychologically and spiritually from our chaplains as well as psychologists," Dyer said.

"It is horrific," he said, "something that you hope you would never see in your career, something that you face here, and we're trying to do the best we can with a horrible situation."

CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez and CNN Radio correspondent Ninette Sosa contributed to this report.

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