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Board grants parole to man who said he helped his father end his life

A guard tower at the Utah State Prison on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. State and local officials make an announcement regarding the launch of planning efforts to redevelop the Utah State Prison in Draper. “The Point” is the newly established name for this 700 acres of state-owned property.
A guard tower at the Utah State Prison on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

UTAH STATE PRISON — Shane Paul Wright became emotional as he recalled the night he fulfilled his father’s request to end his life.

“He grabbed my wrist and he put my hand against his throat and said, ‘Please.’ He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Please.’ And I knew what he was asking and it really scared me,” Wright recently told a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

On Oct. 1, 2016, Bryan Wright, 53, who had dealt with depression and had suicidal thoughts for much of life, convinced his son to help him end his life, according to investigators. Shane Wright strangled his father with an extension cord and smothered his face with a pillow in Holladay. A distraught Wright then called 911.

Wright was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and was sentenced to a term of one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison on Feb. 4, 2019.

Wright, now 28, appeared for his first parole hearing on Nov. 10 and the full pardons board has since granted his request for parole, setting his release date for Dec. 15.

Shane Paul Wright, convicted of manslaughter for helping fulfill his father’s wish to kill him, has been granted parole. He will be released from the Utah State Prison on Dec. 15, 2020.
Shane Paul Wright, 28, convicted of manslaughter for helping fulfill his father’s wish to kill him, has been granted parole. He will be released from the Utah State Prison on Dec. 15, 2020.
Utah State Prison

The emotional hearing lasted nearly an hour. Wright frequently had to stop to fight back tears, and at times broke down as he recounted his crime.

In a recording of the hearing, Wright said his father had actually asked him to help end his life a year earlier.

“I took him to the University of Utah Hospital to get some help, and it really weighed on me,” he said.

Wright said he moved to Oregon shortly after, but stayed in close contact with his father, who seemed to be doing well after receiving treatment. But when his father went to visit him in Oregon, he said by the second day his father had fallen back into a dark place.

“It was a really hard thing to process,” Wright said.

After Bryan Wright returned to Utah, he continued to talk to his son. Shane Wright said three days before his father's death, “He was in a really, really bad place. He was saying things I’d never heard before.

“He was talking about God not being there and absent, and all these things. And it was really alarming for me. And I was really concerned that he was going to attempt to end his life and he was done talking about it,” Wright said.

Wright got in his car and drove 16 hours to his father’s house. He said they talked for many hours, but the conversation “was really dark.” During the conversation, Bryan Wright showed his son the journals he had kept at the hospital. Shane Wright said in the journals, his father talked about “gateways to heaven” and how to meet Heavenly Father.

At the end of the conversation, Wright said his father stared into the distance, and then as if he were talking to someone said, “Is this OK?” Moments later, Wright killed his father at his request.

“I’ve looked back on it multiple times over these past four years. And I think if I had just brought somebody else with me, and it wouldn’t have been what it was. I don’t know. I put myself in a vulnerable spot,” Wright told the board in tears.

He said his intention when he went to his father’s house was to get him back into the hospital.

“That’s where the whole direction of that night was going. I was ready in a heartbeat to reach out,” Wright said.

When asked by Greg Johnson, who conducted the parole hearing, why he didn’t call for help or take his father to the hospital like he did last time, Wright said he was overcome by the moment, and wanted to do anything he could to stop his father’s pain.

“I just had to do whatever he needed. If I could go back I would, I promise I would, because it’s terrible. I love him and I miss him so much. I know there’s other ways that I could have helped him. I don’t know why it had to happen that way. I don’t know why I made that choice. The only thing I could think of in that moment was wanting to help him,” he said.

“I just obeyed his wish, his only wish. His wish that I knew he had for a long time, but a wish I know he wanted me to help with for at least a year. And it was a moment in time where nothing else in the entire world mattered expect helping him. And that’s the best explanation I can give,” Wright said.

“I can assure you if I had been thinking about any of that logically, that things would not have happened that way.”

Wright said he was not thinking about any of the consequences of his actions at that time. Afterward, he said the hardest thing for him to deal with was the pain he had caused his family. Wright said that’s why he accepted a plea deal in his case, so his family wouldn’t have to sit through a trial in a case that had already received significant media attention.

Wright’s mother, Laura Klein, also spoke in favor of her son’s release.

“He’s done so much soul-searching and introspection and growing, you know, emotionally. And he’s grown into a man who’s got a conscience and he cares deeply and he has such a desire to be a contributing member of society,” she said. “He’s willing to do anything to be accountable. ... (He’s) a good, kind man who’s ready to start a life and continue to make repairs as he can.”

Klein said as much as everyone loved her ex-husband, he suffered with extreme depression for years, and would tell others that thoughts of suicide gave him peace. Bryan Wright treated his children as therapists at times, she said, and would be particularly open when talking to Shane.

Johnson noted that the board had also received several letters in support of Wright.

Wright, who has suffered from depression of his own in the past, said since being incarcerated he has made great improvements in his personal life.

“My mental health is actually extremely strong,” he said. “I feel very optimistic about the future.”