10-year sentence for mom in cult

19-month-old son was starved
Associated Press, Apr. 5, 2003

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — A woman whose 19-month-old son starved to death in a suburban household that was run as a bizarre, cult-like clan that abused and neglected its 13 children was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Mary Campbell pleaded guilty in December to child endangerment charges in connection with the death of her son, Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright.

The baby’s death Nov. 13, 2001, led authorities to discover the bizarre household in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Led by a patriarch who rejected modern medicine, the group subjected their 13 children to beatings, forced fasts and neglect.

When authorities found the youngsters, a 2-year-old could not walk or talk and Campbell’s son, at 19 months, was as developed as a 5-month-old.

The group, which called itself the “Family,” included several women who were the mothers of the children, and a leader, Winnifred Wright, who was the father of all the youngsters.

The group lived by a bizarre “Book of Rules” that demanded absolute obedience to Wright, who has already been sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison.

At her sentencing Friday, Campbell burst into tears as she described her role in the abuse.

“I’m filled with guilt, anger, sadness about what has happened,” Campbell said. “I have caused a lot of pain. … I’m trying to understand what has happened.”

Campbell’s lawyer, Marta Osterloh, said the “Family” was a cult, and she said that Campbell had been brainwashed by Wright, whom she described as a “renaissance psychopath.”

But prosecutor Barry Borden noted that Campbell personally wrote at least one of the group’s rules, which required forced fasts for children who disobeyed orders.

Another woman from the group will be sentenced later this month.

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