St. Paul foster dad takes plea deal in child's tub death

  • Article by: MARA VAN ELLS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2011 - 9:04 PM

The 18-month-old girl was left unattended while the St. Paul man helped another child, prosecutors said.

A St. Paul foster care provider charged in the 2009 drowning death of a developmentally disabled 18-month-old girl agreed Friday to an Alford plea to a charge of second-degree manslaughter in Ramsey County District Court.

Daniel L. Wright, 51, agreed to the Alford plea in the death of Brianna Rose Jackson at his home in the 1600 block of Darlene Street. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to a criminal act, but acknowledges the state's strong evidence and the substantial likelihood of being found guilty at trial.

A second charge of felony child endangerment was dropped. Wright had pleaded not guilty to both charges in June. A third charge of felony child neglect was dismissed earlier.

According to the plea agreement, Wright would be sentenced to six months to one year in jail and 10 years of probation. He will be sentenced May 24.

The victim's birth mother is not opposed to the agreement but would like more jail time, said Assistant Washington County Attorney Karin McCarthy. Washington County prosecuted the case to avoid a conflict of interest.

Wright, and his wife, Barbara, had provided foster care since 2002.

On July 1, 2009, Daniel Wright was giving a bath to Brianna and her 3-year-old brother, when the boy got out of the tub and went to another room, according to testimony. Wright said he left Brianna to tend to her brother, who he believed to be in distress.

Soon after, according to the criminal complaint, Barbara Wright's son, Mitchell Azariah, then 20, found Brianna submerged and unresponsive in the tub. He yelled for his mother.

Barbara Wright, a registered nurse, began CPR. Brianna was taken to the St. Paul Children's Hospital. Although paramedics were able to restart her heart, Brianna never regained consciousness, and was pronounced brain-dead the next day.

At the hearing before Ramsey County District Judge Gail Chang Bohr, Wright acknowledged that he knew Brianna was small for her age, had physical and developmental delays, vision impairment and had only begun to sit up on her own within the past three months.

Mara Van Ells is a student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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