Group home escapee beats two women, 7-year-old

Richard Lee Wright, 32, is accused of the brutal beating of two women and a 7-year-old boy. (Yamhill County Jail)
Richard Lee Wright, 32, is accused of the brutal beating of two women and a 7-year-old boy. (Yamhill County Jail)

NEWBERG, Ore. — A man accused of escaping from a state-operated group home, assaulting a female staff member, breaking into a home nearby, and beating a mother and her 7-year-old son is behind bars.

Officials from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department released the grisly details Friday, saying Richard Lee Wright beat the state worker and fled the central Oregon property around 3:30 p.m. Thursday for undisclosed reasons.

A group home in Newberg, Ore. that houses people who deal with many issues, including mental health, addiction and violence. (KOIN 6)
A group home in Newberg, Ore. that houses people who deal with many issues, including mental health, addiction and violence. (KOIN 6)

After leaving the locked facility, Wright, 32, then made his way into the house next door and began punching the 7-year-old repeatedly in the face, according to department officials. The boy’s mother then tried to intervene, NDPD said, leading Wright to punch her as well, though she was reportedly able to push him out of the home during the melee. Police said Wright assaulted a staff member at the home in order to get out of the secure facility.

While the assault was taking place, the woman’s 10-year-old son called 911. NDPD officers quickly arrived on scene and arrested Wright. Both the mother and her younger son were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Police say the 7-year-old’s face was swollen and the mother’s forehead and left side of her face were visibly injured upon transport.

“My youngest grandson is pretty shook up,” said Diana Turner.  “He just burst in.”

“For whatever reason he came here, we don’t know why.”

Her daughter, who was also beaten by Wright, is alright, said Turner. “It’s traumatizing but she’s strong,” she said.

Following the incident, Wright was booked into Yamhill County Jail on trespassing, reckless endangering and assault charges. Newberg-Dundee police said Friday they, on behalf of the family and neighborhood, have contacted representatives of the community home requesting Wright be placed somewhere else immediately.

‘Police: ‘hands tied behind our backs’

Police did not indicate Wright knew the family in any way. Newberg Police Department’s Jeff Kosnicki said the force is not happy with how the home is run.
The state agency in charge, the Department of Human Services, does not cooperate, he said.

“We would prefer that these types of homes not be in residential neighborhoods,” said Kosnicki.  “It’s very frustrating because we’re trying to provide public safety, however we feel like we have one arm tied behind our backs with homes like this,” he said.

“We’re not given any information and these can be dangerous people as proved last night.”

To further complicate things, Kosnicki said the Department of Human Services refuses to disclose which issues – mental illness, a history of violence, etc. – the residents of the house are dealing with.

Kosnicki said such information would assist officers when responding to calls.

A DHS spokesperson said such disclosure would be a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) violation.

DHS said when Wright is released from jail, it will be up to the courts to decide where he goes. Meanwhile, both the families and Newberg Police are calling for increased security at the home.

DHS director Erinn Kelley-Siel said the department is taking the incident very seriously.

“We are already involved in conducting an incident review to look at security at this home, as well as our work procedures and practices to ensure the safety of the local community, the residents of the home and the DHS employees who work there,” she said. She said the facility Wright escaped from is staffed 24/7, and some of the residents require walls, windows and non-breakable fixtures.

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