Cultish 'Family' Leaders Used Lovers

The Associated Press/February 15, 2002
By Justin Pritchard

San Francisco -- The leader of a cult-like family charged in the starvation death of a 19-month-old boy once routinely dispatched one of his lovers to approach other women on the street in apparent attempts to expand their circle, according to police reports.

The pitch from Carol Bremner began with an invitation to be photographed for a woman-themed mural project. But one potential recruit said she was raped when she went to the home of Winnfred Wright, according to police reports. Another told police Wright exposed himself to her and grabbed her when she tried to leave.

Though police took incident reports in those and other cases, neither Wright nor Bremner were arrested - until last week, when Marin County authorities charged them and three other women in the family in a neglect case involving 13 children.

"Either the inspector or the district attorney didn't have enough to press charges,'' San Francisco police spokesman Sherman Ackerson said Thursday of the series of reports filed more than 10 years ago. "I don't think we dropped the ball. I think this one was hard to crack.''

Bremner randomly approached at least four women between the late 1980s and late 1991, convincing them to visit the San Francisco home, according to police reports and interviews.

Once at the house, Bremner photographed the women, police reports said, and Wright then appeared to direct readings of the Bible's book of Revelations or astrological charts.

Drugs were a common thread: two women said Wright smoked a substance that was apparently crack, and a third said she smoked an herbal cigarette before blacking out, according to the reports.

The family eventually moved to Marin County north of San Francisco, where police say they turned a three-bedroom suburban home into a virtual stockade, depriving 13 children of proper sunlight and food.

One of those children - 19-month-old Ndigo Campisi-Nyah-Wright - died in mid-November from apparent malnutrition. The next day, authorities rushed the other 12 into protective custody.

Authorities arrested Wright, 45, and Bremner, 44, along with Deirdre Wilson, 37, Kali Polk-Matthews, 20, and Mary Campbell, 37, the dead child's mother. The arrests came after a grand jury indicted Wright and three of the four women on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect. Polk-Matthews faces manslaughter and neglect charges.

The five are in jail and are scheduled to enter pleas Feb. 21.

Wright also fathered a daughter who died mysteriously 12 years ago, authorities said. San Francisco police investigated, but authorities listed the girl's cause of death only as "sudden death in infancy'' and said she had no apparent injuries. No criminal charges were filed against Wright or the girl's mother, who later left Wright.

Bremner's lawyer said the group led a normal life and was secretive because they knew outsiders would frown on their relationships.

"They just remained private because, obviously, it was a group that drew attention if they went out,'' attorney Jack Rauch said.

Previous police reports in San Francisco include a 1993 complaint against Wright by a neighbor fearing child neglect. Police said they found no obvious signs of abuse or malnutrition, and after they left, Wright threatened to kill the neighbor, according to police.

Singer said Wright used a mixture of charm and psychological coercion to make the women stay.

Authorities said Wright is unemployed and two of the women had jobs that apparently supported the group. Campbell and Wilson are pregnant again.

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