Author Interview with Monte Francis

I would like to welcome Monte Francis, Emmy award winning journalist and true crime author.  I recently reviewed his book, By Their Father’s Hand, and once I finished it, I knew I had to get in touch with him to find out more.  So without further ado, thank you Monte for joining us and telling us more about this compelling case. (Warning: SPOILERS!)

 JulzOk, first and foremost, I have to ask – Did you ever find out what happened in that bedroom?  Whether from Wesson’s attorney or Marcus himself?

Monte:  I found out what Wesson CLAIMED happened in the bedroom.  We may never know the real story since Wesson was the only person who emerged from the bedroom alive.  A couple years after the book was published, I met with his former attorney, who divulged the details to me.  I have included the details in an afterward, (which is still unpublished).  I will send it to you.

Julz:  I understand as a journalist, you have to maintain your objectivity, but were you totally disgusted with Marcus as an individual and for what he did to his family?

Monte: Obviously, the details of both the incest that went on for years, and then the horrible violence that ended the lives of nine people, were hard to handle.  I have covered many disturbing cases over the years, and this had to be the worst.  During the case and the trial, I kept up a good “wall,” a defense I’ve learned as a journalist.  Once I was done with the book, however, I started having nightmares about Wesson.  I guess it was all that stuff I had taken in was finally coming to the surface.  I rarely think about the case anymore, which is also probably a defensive mechanism.

Julz: Did you actually read his entire manifesto?  Was it disturbing, or did it even make any sense at all?

Monte: Yes, I read it all.  It was hard to make sense of.  As I recall, he submitted it to a publisher who called it “incoherent.”  I would agree with that assessment.

Julz:  Elizabeth Wesson always denied she knew what Marcus was doing to her daughters and nieces. How could she not when so many people lived in such proximity?!  Besides being incredibly infuriating, do you think her lack of credibility hindered the investigation?

Monte:  For me, Elizabeth Wesson is a problematic figure in the story.  On the one hand, she was most certainly a VICTIM of her husband, who met her and began manipulating her at a young age.  On the other hand, as an adult she most certainly realized her husband was sleeping with her daughters and nieces, and fathering their children.  When the girls would run away, Elizabeth was the one who would retrieve them, bringing them back into the home where they continued to be abused and raped by her husband.  At the trial, she was given immunity in exchange for not being prosecuted.  My impression is that she had the mentality of someone who had been psychologically abused for many years, so it’s hard to know how much “blame” to assign to her.

Julz:  Do you think any of the women and children who survived the Wesson household have a chance at leading a normal life?

Monte:  That’s a tough one to answer.  I know that Wesson’s niece, Sofina Solario has gone on to create a semblance of a “normal” life.  For those of us on the outside, I think it’s impossible to comprehend the difficulties the Wesson children must have moving on from such a horrible tragedy and a life of abuse.

And now, with Monte’s permission, here are some excerpts from an unpublished afterward in regards to what really happened that fateful day when 9 of Marcus Wesson’s children were murdered.

Since the publication of this book in 2007, Marcus Wesson’s former attorney, David Mugridge, had a change of heart about withholding Wesson’s story from me…

Wesson then recounted the events of March 12, 2004 in his own words.  He explained the family had been fighting over the custody of 7-year-old Jonathan and 7-year-old Aviv.  He said he was unwilling to give the children back to their mothers, Sofina and Ruby Solorio.

“By the time he got into the room, according to him, almost everybody had already been killed,” Mugridge explained.  “And they were already stacked up in a pile and one of the daughters, the oldest one, was in there, and was still conscious and could tell him what was going on.”

Wesson claimed he started going through the pile of children, to see if anyone was still alive.  This is how, according to Wesson’s version of events, so much blood transferred to his pants and shirt.  Mugridge says at this point in the story, Wesson began to cry.

“That’s the first time I had ever seen him anywhere near being emotional,” Mugridge remarked.  “Wesson said he was covered in blood, sitting on the floor repeating, ‘I can’t believe this has happened… I can’t believe that this has happened.’”

Wesson said Sebhrenah had already shot herself and was in the process of dying.  He claims he held her in his arms in her last moments of life, and that they had one final conversation.

“What did they say?” I asked.

“She confessed.  ‘I did it,’ and just that she was sorry, something to that effect,” Mugridge replied.  “Cause he kept saying, ‘Why did you do this?’ And he couldn’t believe that she would actually do it.  Which I thought was a little weird in light of the fact they had this training supposedly, but his explanation was ‘I just didn’t think she would do it.’  Now, I don’t know if that meant he figured she wouldn’t do it until he gave the order to do it, or if she wouldn’t do it at all.”

“But he said he did not give the order?” I interjected.

“He said he did not give the order,” Mugridge affirmed.

“But he didn’t deny having taught the murder-suicide pact to them over the years, but he said he didn’t give the order that day for them to do it?”

“Right.”

“You make it sound like he was surprised when he went into the room,” I said to Mugridge.

“He said he was,” Mugridge replied.

Wesson’s claim that everyone except Sebhrenah was dead by the time he entered the room is contradicted by his wife Elizabeth, who had a glimpse into the bedroom after at least some of the killings had taken place.  Elizabeth testified that when she opened the door to the southeast bedroom, she saw her husband down on one knee, cradling not Sebhrenah, but their 17-year-old daughter Lise, who was wounded but was still alive.  According to Elizabeth, her husband was crying and beckoned to his wife, but Elizabeth was overcome with terror.  After seeing the carnage, she had come running out of the house in hysterics yelling, “They’re all gone! They’re all gone!”…

In addition to Elizabeth’s account of what she saw in the room, there are other things that cast doubt on Marcus Wesson’s story.  For one, he was seen whispering to some of the older girls before the children were gathered in the southeast bedroom; it appeared he had ordered them, at the very least, assemble there and await further instructions.

Also, Wesson’s son Serafino provided a shocking account of what he saw in the back bedroom to ABC News in a July 2010 interview, saying, “I ran into the back room and I see all the seven babies standing there.  They have a look of complete fear.  I see my dad leaning, kneeling on the floor.  He has my nephew Jonathan and a pillow in his hand, and Jonathan is just looking at me.  And my dad looks at me and says, ‘Come here.’ and Lise is lying on the floor and Sebhrenah is holding her down, and [Lise] mouthed the words ‘Help me.’”…

David Mugridge told me that given everything that happened, he wasn’t  surprised the world saw Wesson as a monster.

“He didn’t apologize for the lifestyle they had,” Mugridge said.  “Which in light of what the jury found, the way the story has come out, makes him look even more, I don’t want to say diabolical, but sinister… than it was…”

You can view the afterward in its entirety here.

Nonfiction November – Ultimate Wrap-up Post

nonfictionnovember

For the final day of this glorious month (which also happens to be the birthday of two pretty fabulous blogger ladies [ahem me and Stacey]), I wanted to post a summary of all my Nonfiction November posts:

Topics:

Books Read:

In other nonfiction news, I’m hoping to finish a biography of Edward VI in the next week or so, then I’m going to tackle the giant bio of Queen Victoria that I got at BEA.  Also, I’m excited to have an interview ready Thursday to post with Monte Francis, author of By Their Father’s Hand.  I’m excited about this one, because the convicted killer actually told Monte WHAT HAPPENED and he said he’d share the confession with me!!!

Those of you who stopped by JulzReads for the first time during Nonfiction November, please come again, as I typically feature one or two nonfiction reviews every month.

Nonfiction November – New to My TBR

nonfictionnovember

Lory’s hosting the final week of Nonfiction November, and it’s time to recap all the recommendations I’ve gotten from fellow blogger participants.

Thanks to my fellow co-hosts and everyone who participated this month!

Nonfiction November -Expert Recap

nonfictionnovember

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and spent some quality time with family.  It was quite the week of excellent post on the Be/Ask/Become Expert topic…

Be the Expert:

Ask the Expert:

Become the Expert:

Nonfiction November – Expert Reading

nonfictionnovember

Welcome everyone to week 4 of Nonfiction November.  I am happy to host today’s topic: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Today I will be featuring True Crime, which I’ve recently delved into.  It all began when I started reading about the Amanda Knox/Meredith Kercher case and I highly recommend Murder in Italy by Candice Dempsey as a primer.  I then read the highly anticipated memoirs of the co-defendants, Raffaele Sollicito and Amanda Knox herself: Honor Bound and Waiting to be Heard (respectively).

I have to say the BEST true crime book I’ve ever read was Columbine by Dave Cullen. It’s utterly engrossing and the most comprehensive book written on the subject.  Other noteworthy mentions are:

Another spin on true crime is people who were wrongfully convicted and served time for crimes they didn’t commit.  Since I just read The Exoneree Diaries for Nonfiction November, I had to mention Stolen Years by Reuven Fenton.

I heard the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer was pretty awesome. I haven’t watched it (yet), but I read the book written by one of the lawyers who helped exonerate Steven Avery, The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and its Astounding Aftermath by Michael Griesbach.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the best LITERARY true crime book I’ve ever read: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett.  You should check it out ASAP.

I was recently turned on to Podcasts, and my new favorite is The Sword and Scale, and it is great listening for true crime fans.

So please, recommend away!  Leave comments and link back below.

Here are my Ask The Experts topics from previous years: Romanovs and Tudors

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

the-lonely-polygamistThis post is dedicated to Stacey at Unruly Reader who recommended this fantastic book to me!

Rating: ***** (5/5)

Published: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010

Format:  Hardcover

Genre: Fiction

Source: Personal Collection

I am absolutely enamored with this book! It was clever and funny and sad and everything that makes a book exceptional. The writing was beautiful, the characters were well-developed, and the story was the perfect blend of humor and tragedy.

As the title suggests, Golden is a polygamist with 4 wives, 3 households, 28 kids, a failing business, and a dismal outlook. He is not engaged in his family, which is utterly disharmonious. Each of the four wives is different and distinct: bossy first wife Beverly, jovial Nola, timid Rose, and defiant Trish. The children are generally addressed en masse except for troublemaker Rusty. 12 years old, delinquent, mischievous, and naturally curious, he is perhaps the most engaging character, lost in the shuffle of so many siblings (“what a gyp”).

There were many times I caught myself chuckling while reading, especially any time the anecdote with the gum in Golden’s nether-hair was mentioned. The chapter about Golden and Beverly’s daughter with cerebral palsy was heart wrenching. Golden’s devotion to Glory was the most endearing aspect of the story. The effect of radiation from atomic bomb testing in the nearby desert was also captivating and certainly compromised the family in many unseen ways. But overall, it was dimwitted Golden’s cowardice and deceitfulness that was the driving factor of the novel. “…being a dishonest polygamist was an exceptionally difficult trick to pull off.” The awkward situations he puts himself in are his own fault, and though he comes off as pathetic, he’s also a sympathetic doofus.

Exoneree Diaries by Alison Flowers

exoneree-diariesSubtitle:  The Fight for Innocence, Independence, and Identity

Rating: ** (2/5)

Published: Haymarket Books, June 2016

Format:  Signed Paperback

Genre: Nonfiction

Source: Publisher (BEA)

I found it hard to get into this book because the writing was not engaging. Therefore, I didn’t feel much sympathy for the four subjects of the book, the exonerees who were wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. I could appreciate that they were from Chicago, and one gentleman was convicted due to the city’s notoriously corrupt system. But each individual’s story was too long in its presentation and the way their lives were portrayed was mundane. This happened to them, then that happened, and this straightforward narrative didn’t offer anything compelling. Their struggles with the judicial system and accommodating to life after long prison sentences should have elicited more compassion from me as a reader. By the latter half of the book, I was skimming the final two sections. While it’s important that these people’s stories are told, I’ve seen better examples of exoneree tales in Reuven Fenton’s Stolen Years.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.