Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Family of Winnfred Wright

The Children's Suffering

Ndigo wasn't the first of Wright's progeny to die.

In 1990, Weber's 3-month-old baby, named She, died suddenly one June morning as she lay next to her mother.

Weber told investigators that her baby had been suffering from a cold and that she'd managed to breastfeed her six hours before she stopped breathing. After the baby died, Weber bathed the body and placed it in a hammock-style crib that hung from the ceiling, and then waited three days before phoning authorities.

She told them that she'd waited to report She's death because it took three days for the soul to leave the body, according to the medical examiners report. The baby was already decomposing by the time investigators arrived, and they could find no evidence of neglect in The Family's house.  The place was neat and clean, and nothing besides the mother's beliefs seemed peculiar, so they listed the cause of death as "undetermined."

But the experience scarred Weber, and a year later, she managed to escape with her surviving children, a 2-year-old son and a 4-day-old daughter, according to court documents. She tiptoed out of the house one morning while everyone was still asleep, and ran to a pet store to call her mother, who drove to pick her up.

Her mother was forced to take out a restraining order on The Family when they started to hound her daughter at home, parking in front of her residence, leaving hostile notes inside the mailbox, and calling her day and night.  Afraid for her life, Weber finally changed her name and left California altogether.

In the aftermath of Weber's desertion, The Family became more secretive, and Wright's behavior more bizarre. But while the women were adults with the power to leave their abusive overseer at any time, the same could not be said for their children.

All of The Family's children were born and schooled at home, following the example, Wright told them, of tribal cultures. As a result, there was no record of the children's existence. They had little contact with the outside world, and didn't go to doctors for medical treatment.

San Francisco authorities received several reports of possible child neglect at the Wright residence while they lived on a crowded street in the Sunset District. One neighbor, who later testified against The Family, said she'd often see eight filthy and underdressed kids in The Family's front yard, where she could hear them crying and asking for food.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a neighbor's complaint prompted child protective services to visit the Wright residence in late 1993, but they were not allowed to enter the household and left.

After the investigators departed, Wright got so angry about the complaint that he strode up and down the street with the children in tow, shouting obscenities at the neighbors as the children imitated him and threw rocks. One man tape-recorded 20 minutes of Wright's tirade, in which he threatened to sic his "niggas" on them. The police were called, and Wright was arrested for disorderly conduct, but the charges against him were ultimately dropped.

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