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Man, Ex-Wife Guilty in Molestation Case

May 13, 2000|TRACY WILSON

A retired Santa Paula High School teacher and his ex-wife have been found guilty of molesting two girls, ages 9 and 12, while the children were visiting the defendants' home three years ago.

Gilbert Wayne Wright, 65, was convicted of 10 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Wright, a longtime math teacher and former football coach, faces more than 115 years in prison when sentenced June 8.

The penalty is particularly high, prosecutors explained, because the jury concluded that Wright tied up his victims and molested more than one girl.

"He's looking at several life counts," Deputy Dist. Atty. Audry Rohn said. "This is absolutely the most egregious molestation case I've ever seen. It just boggles the mind."

Wright's former spouse, Diana Nice, 47, was found guilty on three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child and three counts of making a child available for molestation.

Prosecutors say Nice brought the girls, half-sisters who live out of state, to Wright. Nice, a former waitress, faces 79 years in prison, Rohn said.

The convictions, handed down Thursday, follow a two-week trial in Ventura County Superior Court in which the prosecutor described in lurid detail how Wright and Nice forced the girls at separate times to participate in a variety of sexual acts.

Rohn told the jury the abuse continued against the older girl for six months, and on more than one occasion involved the child being tied to a bed.

Rohn said the abuse later extended to a second girl, who was 9 years old.

The girls, who live in Oklahoma, were molested while visiting Nice between December 1996 and June 1997, Rohn said.

Defense lawyers told the jury the girls fabricated the stories. Lawyer Louis "Chuck" Samonsky, who represents Wright, suggested that the older girl was trying to get back at Wright after he threw her out following a six-month stay.

Rohn said jurors told her they believed the victims' stories.

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