PENDLETON, N.Y. (WIVB) — The manhunt for a Pendleton man who was wanted on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child has come to an end. Christopher M. Wright, 44, was taken into custody at his home around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, nearly 24 hours after the search for him began.
During the search, Starpoint Central Schools were placed in a lock-out situation, preventing people from entering the buildings but maintaining normal operations inside.
The Starpoint superintendent made the decision to start the lock-out in consultation with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and the Starpoint School Resource Officer around noon Wednesday. That’s when the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office attempted to check the welfare Christopher Wright at a home on Oakwood Drive, roughly five miles from the Starpoint campus.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, a family member said Wright wanted to harm himself. That’s when the family member called authorities, who came to the house looking for him. Officers say he could have been armed and/or suicidal.
Wright was the subject of a criminal sex abuse investigation for the last several weeks, according to Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour. Voutour says Wright got word that deputies were coming to bring him in, and took off into the woods behind his home.
Wright was wanted on charges of first and second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. A warrant for his arrest was issued Wednesday evening.
After performing a full check of his home, the man was not found Wednesday, but he was located the next morning. Wright’s family tipped off the Sheriff’s Office when he returned home from spending a night in the woods.
If the family had not informed authorities that Wright returned home, the search would have continued with ATVs in the woods.
Wright was emotional and crying when he surrendered. The case against him has been going on for weeks, and a warrant was issued Wednesday night.
In court Thursday, Wright pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and was jailed on $100,000 bail. He will return to court on Dec. 7.
No one was allowed to enter the Starpoint buildings as the lockout went on. It was lifted around 5:00 p.m.
During the lock-out, the school says normal activities continued. Shortly before 3 p.m., the school district announced that “a controlled and supervised dismissal process” for students in Middle School and High School would begin around that time.
Bus dismissal was slightly delayed, but parent pickup for K-5 students proceeded like normal at the schools. Students living on Oakwood or Meadowbrook Ct. had to be picked up.
All students were safely dismissed and Oakwood was reopened.
School officials say there will be additional security Thursday.