It’s a nondescript vacant lot at the corner of Hammond and Weber avenues, just north of Olive Avenue. Infested with weeds and trash, and with freight trains rumbling over the nearby Union Pacific Railroad tracks, there is nothing to suggest the horrors that happened here a dozen years ago.
The Fresno office-turned-home where Marcus Wesson orchestrated the murder of nine of his children in March 2004 once stood on this patch of dirt. Now the 6,500-square-foot lot at 761 W. Hammond Ave. is being sold to the state of California for its high-speed rail project.
The Fresno City Council voted last week to approve the sale of the parcel to the state Public Works Board – acting on behalf of the California High-Speed Rail Authority – for $46,000. The money from the sale will be used for the city’s affordable-housing efforts. The same vote also approved selling an adjoining 1-acre vacant parcel at Weber and Olive avenues, once occupied by the Bel Aire Motel, to the state for $534,000.
On March 12, 2004, police responded to a 911 emergency call about a child-custody dispute. The situation became an 80-minute standoff between Wesson and police. When it was over, police discovered nine women and children shot dead and piled on top of one another in a back bedroom.
Some of the dead were fathered by Wesson in incestuous relations with daughters and nieces. While Wesson did not personally fire a gun in the case, he was convicted of nine counts of first-degree murder in 2005 and sentenced to die because jurors determined that he ordered family members to carry out a murder-suicide pact. Wesson, now 69, has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison since August 2005.
“The state seeks to purchase the property … for its high-speed rail project,” said Marlene Murphey, executive director of what used to be the city’s Redevelopment Agency. “They agree to pay its appraised value, which was determined by a third-party appraiser … at $46,000.”
In the wake of the murders and Wesson’s conviction, the house where the killings happened was torn down in July 2006. A property history shows that Wesson’s niece, Rosa Solorio, sold the property in 2005 to TFS Investments. TFS Investments, in turn, sold the property to the city’s Redevelopment Agency in 2010.
In 2012, the city approved the sale of the property for a new AutoZone store for $580,000. A real estate agent representing the national auto parts retailer said the company planned to use the former Wesson portion of the site as overflow parking. But Murphy said that deal was never concluded.
Murphy said the California High-Speed Rail Authority contacted her office in 2013 to express interest in buying the former Bel Aire Motel site and the adjacent Wesson property.