Leader of Marin's 'Family' paroled 400 miles away at request of victim

Marin Independent Journal/November 23, 2010

The man convicted of starving his young son to death in a Lucas Valley home has been paroled in a city 400 miles south of Marin at the request of one his children, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Winnfred Wright, now 53, was the leader of a clan of several women and more than a dozen children in Lucas Valley who called themselves "the Family." In 2003, Wright was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in state prison for causing the malnutrition death of 19-month-old Ndigo and subjecting a dozen of the baby's siblings to beatings and torture.

Wright met for the first time with his parole officer Tuesday morning in Oxnard in Ventura County, according to state officials.

"It was one of his children that made the request that he not be paroled in Marin," said Cassandra Hockenson, a spokeswoman for the corrections department.

The request was likely made on behalf of the child during Wright's trial in 2003, she said.

"It's common and we honor those requests," Hockenson said.

Oxnard was not chosen for a specific reason. All counties rotate the acceptance of parolees in these cases, Hockenson said.

"It was Ventura's turn, that's the only reason it was chosen," she said.

Wright will be on supervised parole -- instead of unsupervised, as the state had initially planned.

Under standard parole, convicts are assigned to a parole officer who keeps tabs on the parolee. Unsupervised parole requires parolees to abide by conditions of their release, but no one is assigned to watch them.

Parolees must stay in the county in which they are paroled unless they get permission from their parole agent to move.

Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian lobbied the state to have Wright receive standard parole, and provided supplemental information to officials showing the gravity of Wright's crime.

Wright's baby boy, Ndigo, died of "respiratory and cardiac arrest ... as a result of rickets, which is brought on by neglect and malnourishment," according to court documents.

The children, who ranged in age to 17, were made to live by a "Book of Rules" that called for beatings with a belt, tied restraint and the force-feeding of jalapeño peppers for such things as sneaking food and answering the front door of their Mt. Muir Court home, according to court documents.

Wright fathered 15 children with three of his co-defendants; two of the children were born while their mothers were in jail. He had three other children with a woman who left "the Family" in the 1990s after one of her children died in San Francisco.

Mary Campbell, the mother of Ndigo and six other children with Wright, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003. She was paroled in June 2007.

Deirdre Hart Wilson, whose five children suffered malnutrition-related deformities, was sentenced to seven years and four months in 2003 for felony child abuse. She was paroled in July 2005.

Carol Bremner, the mother of two of the child victims, suffered from leukemia and died in 2002 at age 44 while she was in custody at Marin County Jail.

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