Frightening Look Inside Marin's 'The Family' Cult

The Associated Press/January 18, 2003

Novato, Calif. -- Newly released court records provide a horrifying glimpse inside a San Francisco Bay Area house where 13 children and five women lived under the control of a self-anointed leader.

The records, released Friday as part of a criminal case against the patriarch, show that children were starved and beaten.

A 19-month-old boy who died at the house on Nov. 13, 2001, was about the size of a normal five- to six-month-old baby, the records show.

The group, which called itself the Family, came to light after the death of the tot, Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright, who was so badly neglected that he had suffered several bone fractures and numerous deformities, court records show.

Winnfred Wright, the leader of the group, pleaded guilty in Marin County Superior Court last month to child endangerment and neglect. The court records had been sealed to prevent pre-trial publicity, but were released once Wright pleaded guilty and a trial became unnecessary.

Wright and two women from the group are scheduled to be sentenced in March. Charges against another woman from the group were dropped, and the fifth woman died of leukemia last year. The children were placed in protective custody.

The group lived by a draconian "Book of Rules" that provided for tying up the children, whipping them, forcing them to eat hot peppers and taping their mouths shut if they misbehaved, the court records show.

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