Cult-like family members plead guilty in neglect case

Contra Costa Times, Dec. 17, 2002”>Contra Costa Times | 12/17/2002 | Cult-like family members plead guilty in neglect case

By Kim Curtis

SAN FRANCISCO – Three people who lived together in Marin County with two other women and 13 children, pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges of child neglect after one of the children starved to death.

Winnfred Wright and Mary Campbell, the biological parents of the 19-month-old boy who died in November 2001, pleaded guilty to child endangerment that ends in death, along with other neglect charges, said Marin County Prosecutor Ed Berberian.

They originally pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect.

Wright now faces a maximum 16 years, eight months in prison and Campbell faces 14 years.

Deirdre Wilson pleaded guilty to a series of abuse charges involving her children, none of whom died, he said. She faces a maximum 11 years, four months in prison.

Manslaughter and child neglect charges against Kali Polk-Matthews were dropped, Berberian said. She had been free on $100,000 bail.

Carol Bremner, the fourth woman indicted in the case, died of leukemia in August.

Phone messages left for defense lawyers were not returned.

“We would not have entered into this discussion if we didn’t feel it was in the interest of justice,” Berberian said, adding that they were relieved to avoid forcing the children to testify during a lengthy trial. Wright, Campbell and Wilson also waived their rights to appeal.

Authorities began investigating the cult-like family when 19-month-old Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright was brought dead to a local hospital last year. A coroner concluded that the baby died of malnutrition and neglect.

The children allegedly lived in a home where they were lashed and force-fed chili peppers if they misbehaved, according to papers filed with the court. They also reportedly were deprived of sunlight and suffering from rickets, a bone-softening disease caused by a lack of vitamin D. The dozen surviving children have been placed in protective custody.

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