Ex-Cult Leader Released in Ventura County

District Attorney Ed Berberian had sought a supervised released outside of the Bay Area.

Mill Valley Patch, California/November 22, 2010

A former Marinwood man who was convicted on six counts of felony child abuse and sentenced to 16 years and eight months in state prison was scheduled to be released in Oxnard, Ventura County today.

Winnfred Wright, who lived with three women with whom he fathered 12 children, will be supervised by parole agents from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Marin County District Attorney Edward Berberian said his office was notified Friday that Wright would not be released in Marin or San Francisco counties, which he had been told previously.

"He will not be in the Bay Area," Berberian said.?

Berberian had originally been told of Wright's release in September, when corrections department officials said he would be freed on "non-revocable parole." Berberian said that news was "very disturbing" because the case that began with the death of a 19-month-old child in 2001 was so tragic.

Berberian urged state officials to reconsider the terms of Wright's release. He was told last week that the parole conditions had been modified and Wright will be supervised.

"In light of the facts and circumstances of the case that led to Winnfred Wright's conviction for child abuse wherein one of his 12 children died, the decision to place Mr. Wright under parole supervision is the correct and most appropriate action," Berberian said.

Wright pleaded guilty and was sentenced in March 2003 in Marin County Superior Court along with three co-defendants. Prosecutors said he was the leader of the cult-like group, the Family, that raised children under severe conditions governed by a "Book of Rules," that called for restricting their diets, as well as binding and whipping them.

The case was uncovered after 19-month-old ?Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright was taken to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael by two women who said he was not breathing. The toddler suffered malformed legs, a skull fracture, broken bones and rickets among other ailments caused by calcium deficiency and starvation.

Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the corrections department, said that Wright, who began his sentence in San Quentin State Prison, served his term in a community correctional facility for low- and medium-custody inmates.

Berberian said the terms of parole could include such things as an order not to contact his victims and he may be required to enroll in a treatment program, perhaps for batterers.

Wright's children, who ranged in age from 19 months to 16 years when Ndigo died, were placed in foster homes in Marin and elsewhere. He said about half of those children are now legal adults and the others are still in foster situations.?

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