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Monday, May 16, 2011

[OH] 10 years ago today Columbus Police Officer Wright said his wife, Jan Marie, accidentally killed herself

Columbus Police Officer Richard Wright: "My wife went to get my gun from me, and she shot herself."

...[Jan Marie ] Wright, a Rural Metro Ambulance driver, died at 12:30 p.m. of a chest wound at Ohio State University Medical Center. Her husband, [Columbus Police] patrol Officer Richard Wright, 35, who had argued with his wife before the shooting, was cooperating in the investigation, authorities said... [Jan Marie Wright's] stepfather said investigators should have given Wright a polygraph test. [Richard] Wright was not asked to take a polygraph... [Jan's mom] spoke outside the courtroom afterward and said that her attitude toward [Richard] Wright started to change a few days after her daughter died, when she found out the couple had been arguing about another woman in Wright's life. "I found out it was all lies he told us"... Another of Wright's attorneys, William Meeks, would say only that "Officer Wright had a female friend and his wife was upset about that"...

Wright got 6 months for negligent homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Columbus Dispatch
By Bruce Cadwallader and Matthew Marx
Thursday, May 17, 2001
[Excerpts] A Columbus police officer's wife died yesterday when a gun she was trying to wrest from her husband discharged... Investigators said the officer had threatened suicide just before the incident... Mary and Delray Rhoades, surrounded by family and friends last night in a relative's home in the Dayton suburb of Fairborn, were mourning their daughter, Jan Marie Wright, 37, who was killed outside the Wrights' apartment near the Scioto River in Perry Township. Mrs. Wright, a Rural Metro Ambulance driver, died at 12:30 p.m. of a chest wound at Ohio State University Medical Center. Her husband, patrol Officer Richard Wright, 35, who had argued with his wife before the shooting, was cooperating in the investigation, authorities said. Mary Rhoades said Mr. Wright called them yesterday evening to say that he was sorry and that the shooting was an accident, though he didn't elaborate. "I don't blame anyone right now," Mrs. Rhoades, 69, said. "He's torn up pretty bad," she said of Wright. "He thinks we all hate him. No, I don't hate him. We don't hate him." Wright was not under arrest yesterday, but he was stripped of his gun and badge and placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the county coroner... Mrs. Wright was a horse-riding enthusiast and trained horses at a stable in Hilliard, her mother said. The petite woman -- she was 4 feet 8 inches -- competed in riding contests and had once tried her hand at being a jockey, Rhoades said. Mrs. Wright's love for horses was shared by Holly, her 14-year-old stepdaughter, Mrs. Rhoades said.... [A neighbor of the Wrights, Tammi] Mattson said Mr. Wright paced back and forth on the sidewalk while paramedics worked to save his wife. "He was just asking whether she'd be OK"... The case has been referred to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien... O'Brien said Mr. Wright, who was not taken into custody, was given no special treatment... It was unclear whether Mrs. Wright was shot with her husband's service weapon or another gun...The Rhoades said they want Mrs. Wright buried in the Fairborn area, where she grew up... [Full article here]

Columbus Dispatch
By Dean Narciso
Thursday, May 24, 2001
[Excerpts] Columbus Police Officer Richard Wright minimized problems with his ex-wife, wife and two daughters and might have had "obsessive behavior tendencies," according to officers who interviewed him before he was hired by the Police Division in December 1999... Wright, 35, has been assigned to restricted duty, such as a desk job, since the shooting, but has not yet returned to work because of stress, Columbus Police Lt. Ty Brust said. Investigators are awaiting lab reports from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation before sending the case to the county prosecutor's office. Evidence could go before a grand jury by the middle of next week, said sheriff's detective Zachary Scott. The Wrights had been arguing at their home at 2591 Scioto View Lane before the shooting at about 11:30 a.m. Wright told investigators that, after the argument, he took his gun, a Smith & Wesson .45-caliber semiautomatic, and left the house. He told his wife she "would not have to deal with him much longer," according to a search warrant... Wright walked to his car, placed the gun in the middle console and sat in the driver's seat. He told investigators that his wife entered the passenger side, grabbed the gun and was shot in the upper chest during a struggle for it. "I'm a police officer," Wright can be heard frantically saying on a tape of his 911 call. "My wife went to get my gun from me, and she shot herself. Please hurry. Please hurry"... After an employment interview with Wright in July 1999, police Sgt. Theresa Francis said he appeared to sugarcoat and downplay marital and family problems. Francis also was concerned that Wright said he had gained 110 pounds because of a poor marriage and then lost the weight, and he had recently quit a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. She viewed that as "obsessive behavior tendencies," she wrote in a report. Wright also said he had disputes with his wife about his smoking, Francis wrote, and she noted that he repeatedly failed to address her as "sergeant" or "ma'am." Wright's lack of respect for superiors also concerned another of the three review-board interviewers. "Wished I saw more respect for board members. Hopefully, training academy staff can help mold him," wrote Officer Gary Roush. On the other hand, Wright scored points with board members for being articulate, having prior police experience and a sense of humor... Before becoming a Columbus officer, he was a part-time officer with the St. Louisville, Ohio, police department and an auxiliary officer with Kirkersville, Ohio, police... In 1993, Wright was a humane officer with the Capital Area Humane Society. He was fired because of a personal dispute... [Full article here]

Columbus Dispatch.
Tim Doulin. Columbus
Aug 8, 2001
[Excerpt from short abstract] ...Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Wright's attorney, Sam Shamansky, say the shooting was not intentional. Neither would discuss details. Authorities had been considering charging Wright with a more serious offense: reckless homicide with a firearm, sources said. The felony offense carries up to five years in prison, plus a mandatory three years in prison for committing the offense with a gun...

Columbus Dispatch
By Tim Doulin
Friday, August 10, 2001
[Excerpts] Mary Rhoades recalled trying to comfort a distraught Richard Wright as he searched for a way to apologize for accidentally shooting her daughter to death... Mrs. [Jan Marie] Wright thought her husband was going to kill himself, so she followed in an attempt to stop him... Yesterday, the 35-year-old Wright, who joined the Columbus Division of Police in 1999, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor. He also resigned from the police division as part of a plea agreement... Common Pleas Judge Dale A. Crawford ordered Wright to return to court on Sept. 27 to be sentenced. Wright could spend a maximum of six months in jail or be placed on probation. Rhoades came with her husband from her home in Florida to be in court yesterday. She spoke outside the courtroom afterward and said that her attitude toward Wright started to change a few days after her daughter died, when she found out the couple had been arguing about another woman in Wright's life. "I found out it was all lies he told us," Rhoades said... It was the first time Rhoades had seen Wright since her daughter's funeral. "I just felt a hole in my chest and my soul hurt," she said... Wright had been seen with another woman at his daughter's recent music recital, Rhoades said. Another of Wright's attorneys, William Meeks, would say only that "Officer Wright had a female friend and his wife was upset about that"... Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said evidence in the case was consistent with an unintentional shooting. Mrs. Wright had gunpowder burns on her fingers and the shell casing from the discharged bullet was not ejected from the semiautomatic weapon. That seems to support Wright, who said his wife had her hand on the gun when it went off. O'Brien said Wright shouldn't have been carrying a loaded gun with the safety off when he was in an emotional state. Though Mrs. Wright's family approved the plea agreement, Del Rhoades, her stepfather, said investigators should have given Wright a polygraph test. Wright was not asked to take a polygraph, Meeks said, because "This case was not factually disputed. It was pretty clear-cut"... [Full article here]

Columbus Dispatch
Kevin Mayhood
Sep 29, 2001
[Excerpt from short abstract] That was the most he could impose because the charge, to which Wright had pleaded guilty, is only a first-degree misdemeanor. But the deal bars Wright, who resigned from the Division of Police after two years, from serving as a law-enforcement officer in Ohio. The Wrights, married less than three years, argued the morning of May 16 after his daughter, Holli, who was Mrs. Wright's stepdaughter, told her Mr. Wright was seeing another woman...

Franklin County Sheriff's Office Chief Steve Martin blocked the news media from getting witness statements. 

Court of Appeals of Ohio,Tenth District, Franklin County.
The STATE ex rel. WBNS 10 TV, INC., Appellant, v. FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE et al., Appellees.
No. 02AP-561.
-- January 30, 2003
[Excerpt] ...On May 16, 2001, a shooting occurred at 2573 Scioto View Lane in Columbus, Ohio. The victim, Jan Marie Wright, later died from a gunshot wound to the chest. She was shot by her husband, Richard Wright, who at the time was a Columbus Police Officer. The first law enforcement officials to arrive at the scene were officers from the Perry Township Police Department. One of those officers, John Thomas, prepared an Incident Report (“Report”) as part of his investigation of the shooting. The Report consisted of a two-page document that contained 54 numbered boxes in which Officer Thomas could provide information about the shooting. There were also four “Supplementary Report” forms attached to the Report. These forms contained statements from other police officers at the scene. Lastly, there were five “Perry Township District Police Department Voluntary Statement (Not Under Arrest)” forms included by Officer Thomas in his Report. These documents contained statements of other witnesses to the shooting and were also attached to the original Report prepared by Officer Thomas.
On the evening of May 16, Officer Thomas delivered the original Report with most of the attachments to the FCSO, as that office had taken over the investigation of the shooting. The attachments that were not delivered at that time (three of the four “Supplementary Report” forms) were delivered by Officer Thomas to the FCSO the next day, May 17.
The shooting garnered much media attention, and, on May 17, Joel Chow, an employee of WBNS, contacted FCSO Chief Steve Martin and requested a copy of the Report pursuant to the public records law. Thereafter, Chow received a three-page fax that included two documents titled “Franklin County Sheriff's Office Official Report” and the first page of Officer Thomas's Report. Upon reviewing these pages, Chow noticed that Officer Thomas's Report referred to several witness statements. The Report contained two boxes titled “Witness 1” and “Witness 2” in which Officer Thomas had simply typed the words “See Statements.” On May 18, after being unable to contact the Perry Township Police Department, Chow contacted Chief Martin again, seeking copies of the witness statements that were referred in Officer Thomas's Report. Chief Martin refused to provide Chow with these witness statements and indicated that, if WBNS continued to insist on the production of the witness statements, WBNS “never would have anything ever from [the FCSO] again.”
Later that same day, Chow told John Cardenas, the News Director for WBNS, about his conversations with Chief Martin. Cardenas then contacted Chief Martin and made another request for the witness statements. In a heated conversation, Chief Martin again refused to provide the witness statements, but also indicated that he was seeking legal advice from the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office. Chief Martin stated that he expected to receive the legal advice later that afternoon and that he would then call Cardenas back. That afternoon, Chief Martin received a legal opinion from attorney Jeff Glasgow of the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office. In essence, Glasgow informed Chief Martin that the witness statements were public records subject to disclosure.
Chief Martin then contacted Lieutenant Robert Pendelton of the Perry Township Police Department and advised him that, if Pendelton received any public records requests for the Report, he was to release the entire Report, including the witness statements. Chief Martin also informed his boss, Sheriff Karnes, both orally and in writing, the substance of attorney Glasgow's legal advice. However, Chief Martin did not call or attempt to contact Cardenas that day, nor did he send WBNS the requested witness statements. When Cardenas failed to hear from Chief Martin by late afternoon, WBNS immediately filed a verified complaint in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
WBNS's complaint sought a writ of mandamus compelling the FCSO to produce the witness statements pursuant to the Ohio Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43. On May 21, Lieutenant Pendelton released the report and witness statements to Channel 6. WBNS did not learn of this release until Channel 6 ran news stories concerning the content of the witness statements on May 21. The following day, WBNS received the witness statements from Lieutenant Pendelton. WBNS received these same documents from the FCSO on May 25...  Full document here
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety lethal fatality fatalities murder accident accidental unsolved unresolved usur ohio state politics]


  1. Unbelievable. No, really - unbelievable.

  2. Speaking your name today.
    Jan Marie Wright.

  3. This was my Aunt, my mother's only sibling, my grandmothers baby....never a day goes by that I don't miss her and my heart aches. This changed the lives of my family for forever......and he walks free.

  4. Hello Carrie. I am so sorry for the loss to Jan and the whole family. If you would like to add a photo here it would be welcomed. Hugs. <3

  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2019

    I still remember you Jan, you were a sweet woman. we met at the Humane Society, and I never forgot your love of Pitties, back when so many were afraid. RIP.

  6. AnonymousJune 27, 2023

    There's a story behind this story.

    1. Do you sense that or do you know that? I'm asking because if you KNOW that I would ask for you to find a way to tell it.


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