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Father's harsh punishment killed girl, authorities say

More than 12 hours after his 3-year-old daughter Liadan Eva Wright died, Jericho Wright, 26, of Dos Palos, awoke from a drunken stupor and finally alerted authorities, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.

Wright, a newspaper delivery carrier, remains in Merced County Jail without bail on a murder charge, Pazin said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. He said after the girl accidentally wet the bed Sunday, he threw her into a cold shower about 3 that afternoon as a disciplinary measure and she struck her head.

Pazin said Wright remains under suicide watch at the jail. He told Dos Palos police detective Donavan Sizemore that he contemplated suicide but instead drank champagne and/or wine and took a quantity of aspirin about 9 a.m. Monday, awakening more than eight hours later when he called 911 dispatchers.

About 6 p.m. Sunday, the girl told her father she was tired and he put her to bed. Wright woke up at 3:30 a.m. Monday and said she seemed OK before he did the first round of his newspaper deliveries.

When he returned to his Dos Palos Avenue apartment at 5:30 a.m. she was cold and stiff to the touch, Pazin said. Wright then went back out to finish delivering papers and collect his thoughts, the sheriff said, returning home at 9 a.m.

"This is a very stressful circumstance and terrible situation," Pazin said. "This is a very tragic and atrocious crime. I have plenty of personal opinions but will reserve them because I don't want to compromise the case. It's sad and disgusting."

Sizemore said Wright, an independent contractor who delivered the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise, had lived in Dos Palos about a year and was originally from Los Banos. He has no prior arrest record.

Pazin said the child's mother, whom he would not identify, lives in the Los Banos area and "obviously is very upset." Wright and the child's mother had a verbal agreement to share custody on a week-on, week-off basis.

An autopsy will be conducted today, Pazin said, along with full toxicology testing.

The child had a bruise on her forehead, cut to her lips and other bruises.

While the crime occurred in the city of Dos Palos, the sheriff's department Major Crimes Unit was called in to help investigate. Pazin said he would not comment about a note found in the Wright apartment by officers.

"As jaded as I am, every time I think I've seen it all, there's a new chapter to add to my memoirs," Pazin said.

Sizemore said he doesn't believe Wright has any other children. He said Wright and his ex-girlfriend were never married. He was initially booked into jail on a general neglect charge.

The child's death is the second murder investigation of the year in Dos Palos.

Jesse Thanoi, 19, of Salinas, died earlier this month in a Fresno hospital, a week after a gang-related shooting on Golden Gate Avenue.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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