State Appeals Court Upholds Cult Family Sentences

Bay City News Wire/February 24, 2005

San Francisco -- A state appeals court in San Francisco has upheld a prison sentence of 16 years and eight months for a Marin County man convicted of abusing his children in a cult-like communal group sometimes known as the "The Family.''

Winnfred Wright was prosecuted after one of his 15 children, 19-month-old Ndigo Wright, was found to have died of severe malnutrition and neglect when four women from the group brought his deformed body to Kaiser Hospital in San Rafael in 2001.

Wright and two of the children's mothers, Mary Campbell and Deirdre Wilson, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse charges in Marin County Superior Court in 2002.

Wright was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison for six counts of abuse. Campbell, the mother of Ndigo and five surviving children, was sentenced to 10 years for four counts of abuse.

Wilson received a penalty of seven years and four months. The third mother, Carol Bremner, was also charged, but died of leukemia.

Wright and Campbell later joined in an appeal of the procedures used to determine their sentences. They said their crime should be considered just a single act of abuse instead of multiple separate charges.

But a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that the abuses were separate actions.

Justice Douglas Swager wrote, "The neglect of each of the younger children with conspicuous and severely debilitating symptoms of rickets involved a separate, though perhaps simultaneous, intent and objective.''

Swager added, "Similarly, a separate intent and objective can be found in the social and educational isolation of the three older children.''

In a separate ruling earlier this month, the same court upheld the termination of parental rights for Wright, Campbell and Wilson.

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