Parents put on trial over neglected child


POSTED: Saturday, September 05, 2009

Indigo Wright weighed 29 pounds, half of what a healthy 12-year-old should weigh, when paramedics responded to an emergency call to her parents' Kinau Street apartment two years ago.

She was in critical condition when she arrived at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, brain-damaged from malnourishment and “;severely”; underweight.

Her parents — Melvin and Denise Wright — were indicted six months later by an Oahu grand jury on charges of attempted murder.

The couple had been charged in 2000 with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a minor. Both were granted a one-year deferral after Denise pleaded guilty and Melvin pleaded no contest.

;[Preview]  Wright parents stand trial for attempted murder

The parents of a girl who almost starved to death in Makiki went on trial in family court today.

Watch ]


Debra Loy, the public defender assigned to defend Denise Wright, told a jury yesterday that there are two victims in this case: Indigo and Denise Wright.

Loy said Denise Wright suffered from two mental illnesses — “;acute chronic depression”; and severe anxiety — as well as “;personal disorders”; that made her dependent on her husband and caused her to avoid situations that would create conflicts.

Although Loy said Wright failed to provide her daughter with “;adequate nutritional”; support, she did not intend to kill her.

;  Lane Takahashi, Melvin Wright's public defender, said his client had moved out of the couple's second-floor apartment at 809 Kinau St. in 2004 but continued to pay the apartment's rent and utilities. However, when Wright lost his job in 2006, he could pay only the rent and utilities and between $150 and $250 a month in groceries for his estranged wife and daughter.

Wright was not “;the greatest father to Indigo,”; Takahashi said. “;But he did not commit the offense of attempted murder in the second degree.”;

In his opening statement, city deputy prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado showed jurors five photos, including two taken of Indigo Wright by police on Jan. 7, 2007, in the hospital's emergency room and another taken seven months earlier.

;  “;She weighed 29 pounds, just skin and bones,”; Arrisgado told the jury. “;She couldn't walk.

“;She was this close to death,”; added the prosecutor, making a small gap with his thumb and index finger.

“;Paramedics couldn't get any glucose readings. Her pulse was very, very weak.”;

Medical professionals “;really don't understand how she survived,”; Arrisgado said.

Loy said Denise Wright also had trouble feeding Indigo because she was not interested in food.

Everett Sakai, the Honolulu police officer who photographed the victim at the hospital and the couple's apartment, testified that when he examined the apartment, he found a refrigerator with only bottles of the food supplement Ensure, juice, syrup, vitamins and plastic cups.

Arrisgado said that during the two-week trial, a pediatrician will testify that malnutrition resulted in neurological problems for Indigo Wright, who now lives in Charlotte, S.C., with her grandparents, who plan to adopt her. Wright, 15, is in special-education classes and performs at the level of a third-grader.