Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Family of Winnfred Wright

Consumed by Anger

But while Wright seemed to have settled down, his family started to see a darker side of him emerge. He began to write his siblings ranting letters raging against what he viewed as the racist white establishment and advocating a violent overthrow of "the system."

Haight & Ashbury signpost
Haight & Ashbury signpost
His anger consumed him. He got involved in San Francisco's reggae scene, smoking marijuana, hanging out in the dark, cramped clubs in The Haight district, befriending musicians and even writing his own songs about black oppression.

In 1980, he decided the 9-to-5 life was not for him, so he quit his job, left his wife, and went to New York City, where he lived on the streets with a "sleeping bag, his herbs, and his Bible," according to court-ordered psychological evaluation performed during The Family's prosecution. His relatives thought he'd lost his mind.

A couple of years later, he returned to San Francisco and moved in with Carol Bremner, a soft-spoken woman with long blonde hair he'd met in an elevator and who also frequented reggae clubs.

Bremner became the first of Wright's many concubines.

In many ways, she was a perfect match for him. She'd been a leader in the UC Berkeley anti-apartheid movement that protested racist government policies in South Africa and was therefore already infused with guilt at white privilege. And she was hip to the Bay Area reggae-Rastafarian community.

Rastafarianism, a sect that originated in Jamaica, holds that a black messiah will someday descend from heaven and summon blacks around the world back to Africa to create an ethnic utopia. "Rastas" shun what they view as the materialistic white culture - which they call "Babylon" - and smoke Ganga (marijuana) as a sacramental rite.

While Bremner held down a day job, Wright smoked ganga and devoured texts on religious movements ranging from Chinese Taosim to Native American mysticism. In a pot-induced reverie, he decided it was his destiny to become a spiritual leader. He'd create his own tribe by taking on multiple wives who'd bear him many children. His tribe would reject the strictures of Babylon America to attain a higher level of racial harmony and spiritual enlightenment.

In a court-ordered psychological review, Bremner said she bought into Wright's religious aspirations, and agreed to support him financially and share him with other women. As she told a future wife: "He's such a good husband, he should have many followers."

During the next two decades, the wannabe deity preached his self-serving creed to a series of women, and some fell for it.

 

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