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9 People Found Dead in Fresno Home, Suspect in Custody

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Police officers responding to a child custody dispute said they arrived at a home to find nine bodies stacked and intertwined in a pile of clothes, 10 coffins and a 57-year-old man they believe is responsible for the slaughter.

The victims were seven children ranging in age from 1 to 8, a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl. All were thought to be the children of Marcus Wesson, who surrendered to police Friday after walking out of the house covered in what appeared to be blood.

The grim scene caused even veteran officers to weep.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer wiped tears from his eyes as officers carried the bodies from the home, cradling the youngest ones in their arms.

"I've been with the Fresno Police Department for 25 years, and I've never experienced anything of this nature," he said.

Dyer said the victims probably were Wesson's children. "There may have been some type of ritual involved," he said.

The police chief declined to say how they died, but the scene was so gruesome some of the first officers into the house were placed on administrative leave and were being counseled Friday night.

Six police chaplains were at the house throughout the evening as detectives continued to gather evidence.

The victims' bodies were found stacked in a pile of clothes inside the single-story home. The coffins were stacked along a wall. Authorities did not know why the coffins were there and said it might be a coincidence.

Officers were called to the home Friday afternoon by two women who said a man had their children and would not release them.

The man initially ignored orders to come out, running into a back bedroom as two other women fled the house. They were unharmed.

Police believe the suspect fathered the victims with the four women. They did not identify the women or the victims.

A neighbor, Chris Tognazzini, said he heard two gunshots moments before police arrived.

Dyer said the women who called authorities told them they had given custody of their children to Wesson two years ago and now wanted them back.

The slayings shocked authorities in Fresno, a city of 440,000 about 190 miles southeast of San Francisco. Dyer said the city had seen three murders in the last 2 1/2 months, the fewest number for a 10-week period in more than three decades.

"The only thing we can do now is mourn. We mourn for the kids, we mourn for the police," said Mayor Alan Autry. "We will never be the same again."

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