Jericho Wright, a 29-year-old Dos Palos man charged with homicide and felony child endangerment in the death of his 3-year-old daughter, pleaded no contest to the death. On Nov. 7 he will be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Liadan Wright died in Dos Palos just a few weeks after her third birthday. Deputy Coroner John Arguelles placed the time of death between 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2008, and 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 26, according to prosecutors from the District Attorney's Office.
But prosecutors said her death wasn't reported by Wright until about 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. Ultimately, Wright told investigating officers that he found Liadan dead at 5:30 a.m. on the 26th, when he returned home from delivering the Sun-Star newspaper.
After finding his daughter dead, Wright said he finished delivering newspapers, returning home around 9 a.m. He claimed to officers that he intended to kill himself with alcohol and pain pills. However, prosecutors said no pill bottles were found in the residence. The officers did find a large amount of alcohol, empty alcohol bottles and some marijuana.
Wright shared custody of the girl with his ex-girlfriend, according to court documents.
Wright maintained that his daughter had fallen in the bathtub and hit her head. He also claimed she was fine when he put her to bed, leaving her alone as he went out to his paper route.
However, according to the autopsy report, Liadan had 17 blunt impacts to her head, indicating a violent assault with several blows. The pathologist, Dr. Christopher Happy, explained to Sgt. Donovan Sizemore of the Dos Palos Police Department that these were the type of injuries seen in motor vehicle accidents, a fall from a three-story building or a violent assault. He said they couldn't have resulted from a slip and fall in the bathtub, as the defendant had claimed.
Wright initially had pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Chief Deputy Public Defender Vincent Andrade, didn't respond to a telephone request for comment Friday before the Sun-Star's deadline.
In August, Andrade said he didn't accept the allegations against his client. "It's a very complicated case. I think there's evidence out there that will point to his innocence," Andrade had said.
Michael Coughlin, co-counsel for the defense, couldn't be reached because the Los Banos office of the Public Defender closes at 1 p.m. on Fridays.
"A beautiful little girl's life was violently ended by her father," said Misty Compton, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case. "He potentially faces a life sentence in prison as a result. This resolution spares the mother, and all the grandparents, the trauma of going through a trial and provides justice for Liadan."
The investigation was conducted by the Dos Palos Police Department, with help from the Merced County Sheriff's Department.
Wright had been held at the John Latorraca Correctional Center in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.