Man pleads not guilty in slaying of mother, grandmother

Allegedly admitted he slit their throats

Joseph Wright at his arraignment in Lynn District Court on Thursday.
Lisa Poole
Joseph Wright at his arraignment in Lynn District Court on Thursday.

LYNN - Streaked with his mother’s and grandmother’s blood, Joseph Edward Wright III allegedly dumped their bodies at a nearby school and used his mother’s credit card to withdraw $400 from an ATM before fleeing north, prosecutors said.

After making the withdrawal at 1 a.m. Tuesday, Wright headed to Canada in his grandmother’s car, but was apprehended that night just over the border in New Brunswick, where he allegedly confessed to authorities that he had killed the women.

“That’s nothing, I just slit the throats of my mother and grandmother in Massachusetts, dumped them at a school and left the knife in the apartment,’’ Wright allegedly told Canadian law enforcement officials without being prompted when he was read his rights, according to Michael Patten, Essex County assistant district attorney, who detailed the case against the 23-year-old defendant during his arraignment Thursday in Lynn District Court.


Wright, through his attorney, John Morris, pleaded not guilty to two charges of first-degree murder.

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He was ordered held without bail by Judge James L. LaMothe Jr.

No motive has been disclosed by authorities in the murders of Donna Breau, 54, and her mother, Melba Trahant, 83, whose throats were slit from “ear-to-ear,’’ Patten said.

The victims lived at 94 Sheridan St. in Lynn, Breau in a second-floor apartment and her mother on the first floor. Wright lived at the same address.

A bloodstained knife found in Breau’s kitchen sink is being tested to determine if it is the murder weapon.


Breau’s living room couch was soaked in blood, as was Trahant’s bed, and a “dragging’’ pattern extended from both residences to the driveway, Patten said.

LaMothe ordered Wright held without bail pending a May 29 hearing.

Court records reveal that Wright had run-ins with the law, arrests for shoplifting and breaking and entering, and that his father called police to their Lowell residence in 2007 after his son made menacing gestures toward him.

Joseph Wright Jr. told authorities, according to a Lowell Police report, that his then-16-year-old son “balled his hands into fists and raised them into the air menacingly. . .’’

The teen then kicked a family desktop computer before leaving the house through a side window, according to the report.


Prosecutors declined to pursue that case.

Wright allegedly stole Dramamine, an antihistamine, from two CVS pharmacies in 2011.

Both cases were apparently dismissed with payment of court costs.

The court records listed Wright as being a member of the US Army Reserves after high school, and then drifting between carpentry work and unemployment in subsequent years.

Relatives of Wright, including his sister, brother-in-law, and father, declined to comment Thursday after the arraignment.

A woman standing in front of Wright’s father’s residence in Lowell asked reporters to leave.

Morris, Wright’s court-appointed attorney, said after the arraignment that he talked with his client several times since Wright waived an extradition hearing and agreed to return to the area. But Morris declined to give details about the conversations.

Morris added that he will likely seek to have his client evaluated by a psychiatric specialist to evaluate his mental state.

“I just want to make sure he doesn’t have any mental health issues, so I can eliminate that as a potential area,’’ he said.

Morris also said he was considering filing a motion to suppress any statements his client made prior to being represented by a lawyer, referring specifically to the alleged confession.

Patten, in arguing for no bail, said the “gruesome and utterly demoralizing nature of these crimes combined with the defendant’s flight to Canada,’’ were the basis of his request.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, a janitor at the Lynnhurst Elementary School in Saugus discovered the bodies, covered by a blue tarp, behind the school, dumped on a grassy area next to a portable trailer.

After authorities identified the bodies, they went to the Sheridan Street address, where neighbors told them that Trahant’s 1996 Toyota Corolla was missing.

Police issued an advisory to law enforcement in the region, and at 6 p.m., Canadian officials contacted local police and told them Wright had attempted to flee a checkpoint at the Woodstock, New Brunswick, station.

Wright allegedly drove three miles into Canada before ditching the car and attempting to flee on foot. He was quickly apprehended and authorities found blood on his clothing and inside the car.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at