Thursday, June 3, 2004

Brother gets four-year term in fatal shooting of sister

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sean Wright, 19, was sentenced to four years for the Nov. 15 shooting death of his sister, Nicole. Wright was convicted of reckless homicide.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS
While acknowledging the death of a 17-year-old girl by her older brother was tragic, a Hamilton County judge scolded the man Wednesday and sentenced him to four years in prison.

The lawyer for Sean Wright, 19, of Northside, argued that his client didn't know the 12-gauge shotgun was loaded when he shot his sister, Nicole Wright, in November. Peter Rosenwald said Sean Wright was trying to scare his sister.

But Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ethna Coopersaid Wright was "reckless beyond belief."

A jury convicted Wright May 13of reckless homicide, but acquitted him of murder. Jurors also said a charge of negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, was too lenient. Ohio's reckless homicide law makes it illegal to use a gun without concern for the consequences.

One of the jurors, Anthony Sarvello, 31, Pleasant Ridge, said finding Sean Wright guilty was one of the most difficult things he has ever done.

The jurors, he said, knew Sean Wright did not purposely kill his sister.

"(Reckless homicide) is not the easiest definition to figure out," Sarvello said. "(Sean Wright) should have known not to point a weapon whatsoever."

Testimony that showed Sean Wright had no training in weapons use was one of the reasons why jurors chose to convict on a reckless charge, he said.

"We realized it was possible that round was in the gun when he bought it," Sarvello said. "Because he didn't have training, he didn't know that."

Wright removed seven shells from the shotgun, but did not realize another round remained in the gun, his lawyer has said.

Before issuing the sentence, Cooper called Nicole Wright's death a tragedy. "A young girl dead, a son who is going to be taken to prison and a family torn apart," Cooper said. "At the same time, he needs to take responsibility for his actions."

Nicole Wright was visiting her brother's Northside home the night of Nov. 15 when they got into an argument, prompting Nicole Wright to threaten to commit suicide. It was a threat she had made before.

Sean Wright, who had bought a police-issue 12-gauge shotgun on the street or at a flea market two weeks earlier, decided to scare his sister, Rosenwald said. He emptied the shells he had previously loaded into it and tried to hand it to his sister. She refused.

Sean Wright pulled the trigger. His sister died within minutes.

Cooper said he never should have had that gun.

"He took a weapon I have never quite seen the likes of before," Cooper said. "A shotgun with a pistol grip, with a retractable stock, whose only purpose is to kill.

"It is not for hunting, not for target shooting," she said. "He took it and pointed it at his sister.

"That was reckless, reckless beyond belief," she said.

Wright's parents, Kelly and Ralph Wright stood by his side at sentencing.

"Sean has to deal with these things alone," Kelly Wright said. "He needs counseling and he needs to be with family.

"Please let Sean come home as soon as possible," she urged the judge.

Cooper had the option of sentencing Sean Wright to spend up to eight years in prison. Because of mandatory time on gun specifications attached to the charge, four years was the minimum allowed under law. He will not be eligible for parole.

Sean Wright didn't speak at sentencing, but his mother said he wants to help others:

"After he's released he wants to talk to kids and tell them what happened so this doesn't happen to somebody else."


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