Five Californians Held in Toddler's Neglect Death

Reuters/February 11, 2002

San Rafael, Calif. -- A man and four women who lived with 13 children in a modest suburban home north of San Francisco appeared in court on Monday to face charges in the malnutrition death of a 19-month-old boy and criminal neglect of the other children in their care.

The man, Winnfred Everett Wright, 45, and the women, Mary Campbell, 37, Deirdre Hart Wilson, 37, Carol Louise Bremner, 44, and Kali-Elaine Polk-Matthews, 20, appeared in Marin County Superior Court for arraignment proceedings, which were continued until Wednesday.

DNA tests have concluded that Everett Wright was the father of all 13 children, while the women's relationship to the children still was being explored.

Wright and all the women except Polk-Matthews were indicted on second-degree murder charges on Friday in connection with the death of the boy, whose body was taken in November to a local hospital where doctors said he had died of severe malnutrition.

All five defendants also were indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. Two of the women appeared to be pregnant at Monday's arraignment, while a third, apparently suffering from leukemia, was wearing a protective mask.

None of the five suspects entered a plea, and all are being held without bail. Police said they were examining a number of leads, including a possible religious-cult connection.

"Everything is open for investigation at this time. We are not going to rule anything out," Marin County Sheriff Detective Fred Marziano told reporters.

Officials said 12 other children, ranging in age from 8 months to 16 years, were removed from the group's three-bedroom home in November and placed in foster care.

"They are currently receiving treatment, and they are also being treated for varying degrees of malnutrition and neglect," Marziano said.

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