Parents of malnourished girl on trial for attempted murder

Published: Sep. 4, 2009 at 11:06 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 4, 2009 at 11:32 PM HST
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Melvin Right (center)
Melvin Right (center)
Denise Wright
Denise Wright
Maurice Arrisgado
Maurice Arrisgado
Debra Loy
Debra Loy
Lane Takahashi
Lane Takahashi

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Trial got underway Friday for the parents of a girl who was found malnourished and near death in her Honolulu apartment two years ago.

Melvin and Denise Wright are charged with attempted murder.

Prosecutors say Indigo Wright, who's now 15 years old and living with her grandparents on the mainland, has neurological disabilities and is performing at a third-grade level because of the malnutrition she suffered.

Indigo Wright smiles for the camera. A bowl of food sits on her lap. But her tiny frame concerns her uncle, who took a photo of her during a visit.

"Denise Wright did fail to provide adequate nutrition and medical services to Indigo for a period of time," Debra Loy, Denise Wright's attorney, said. "But she was not attempting to kill her child."

Seven months later, paramedics rushed to a Kinau Street apartment and found the child unresponsive.

Investigators initially said the then 12-year-old girl weighed about 40 lbs., the weight of a healthy five-year-old. At her parents' attempted murder trial, prosecutors tell jurors Indigo weighed even less than that.

"She weighed 29 lbs. approximately," Maurice Arrisgado, deputy prosecutor, said. "Skin and bones. No muscle. Can't walk."

Melvin and Denise Wright say they provided the best care they could while dealing with financial and marital woes -- and, in Denise's case, mental illness.

"Denise's depression and anxiety went sky high," Loy said. "And when it did, Indigo quit wanting to eat. Now whether that's physical or psychological, we don't know. But Indigo started being a non-eater."

"While Melvin Wright Junior was not the greatest father to Indigo, he did not by his action or lack of action or inaction commit the offense of attempted murder," Lane Takahashi, Melvin Wright's attorney, said.

A police officer testifies there wasn't much to eat in the refrigerator inside the Wrights' apartment. But under cross examination, he acknowledges he peeked into a Bud Light box that was in a cabinet, but didn't look in another box to its left.

"Did you have any interest in what was in the next box?" Loy asked.

"Um, no," Ofr. Everett Sakai, Honolulu Police Department, replied.

"It could have been food, couldn't it?" Loy asked.

"It could have been," Sakai responded.

Melvin Wright's attorney says his client had moved out of the apartment, but continued to provide what he could for groceries, utilities and rent.

The trial continues next week.