Mother of malnourished girl testifies in her own defense

Indigo Wright
Indigo Wright
Denise Wright
Denise Wright
Melvin Wright
Melvin Wright
Dr. Victoria Schneider
Dr. Victoria Schneider

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The mother of a Honolulu girl, who nearly starved to death two years ago, says she didn't seek medical attention for her child sooner because she was afraid of being ridiculed and judged.

Denise Wright testified in her own defense at her attempted murder trial Tuesday.

Denise Wright says she grew up in an abusive household. She says she was happy when her daughter, Indigo, was born, but eventually let her husband make all the decisions relating to the family in order to avoid any conflict.

The mother of a malnourished girl says money problems made it difficult to keep her refrigerator well-stocked. She says it only got worse when her husband, Melvin, started spending less time at home because he was seeing another woman.

"There wasn't enough food to feed her," Denise Wright, defendant, testified. "I would give her macaroni and cheese, potatoes and, if there was bread, bread."

"Did you have any meat for her?" Debra Loy, deputy public defender, asked.

"No," Wright replied.

Wright says she knew her daughter, Indigo, was losing weight, so she was ashamed to be seen in public or seek medical help.

"What was it about her looks that made you ashamed?" Loy asked.

"Her losing the weight," Wright replied.

"And how did you notice it?" her lawyer asked.

"I would like see it in her sides, her face," the defendant replied. "I was scared."

Prosecutors say the child was reduced to skin and bones by the time paramedics rescued her from a Kinau Street apartment in January 2007.

"She was just like opening her eyes a little bit when I would talk to her," Denise Wright said about her daughter's condition that day. "And when I would say stuff, she would kind of like just moan."

A pediatrician who examined Indigo says the 12-year-old weighed 28-and-a-half pounds, the healthy weight of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

"I've never seen a child look like that before," Dr. Victoria Schneider testified. "She had bone protruding everywhere. You could really just see her skeleton."

"All the basic bodily functions were shutting down, which are all signs of imminent death," the doctor continued.

Schneider says Indigo was fixated on food, and asked doctors for a hamburger or some macaroni and cheese.

"Over the first couple of days, they were able to start to slowly feed her (through a tube)," the doctor testified. "But they had to go very slowly."

Melvin Wright is also charged with attempted murder. Both he and Denise Wright say they did the best they could and were not trying to kill their daughter.