Doctor says death was near for malnourished 12-year-old


POSTED: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Denise Wright testified that she feared her husband so much that she failed to take care of their 12-year-old daughter even though she had shriveled to the weight of an average 2 1/2 -year-old.

Indigo Wright had become so malnourished that a pediatrician testified the 28 1/2-pound girl would have died if she had not been taken to the hospital in January 2007. “;I've never seen a child look like that before, a child emaciated to that degree,”; said child abuse expert Dr. Victoria Schneider.

An emotionless Denise Wright, 36, took the stand yesterday to defend herself on a charge of attempted murder. Her former husband, Melvin Wright, is on trial for the same offense.


;[Preview]  Denise Wright Testifies

In court today, Denise Wright continued to blame her husband for creating an environment of isolation and neglect.

Watch ]


Denise Wright told the jury yesterday she tried to get help but was afraid of her husband, who she said verbally abused her.

Wright said she grew up in an abusive home in Virginia. She moved to Hawaii in 1999 with their daughter to join her husband, who was then a Marine and stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The couple moved three times on Oahu before settling at a Kinau Street residential apartment complex in Makiki. She testified her husband had affairs and moved out a few months later.

It was at that time, Wright said, that Indigo's weight started to drop. Her daughter was about 10 years old. Although they were separated, Wright continued to listen to her husband, who made all the decisions. “;I didn't want to go against him,”; she said. “;I didn't want any confrontations.”;


He visited twice a week and purchased groceries. Her relatives also helped with food. When Deputy Prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado asked why she did not get a job, Denise Wright said her husband wanted her to be a housewife.

But food became scarce after Melvin Wright lost his job in 2006. “;I tried to feed her as much as I could with what I had,”; she said, adding that that included small portions of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and, at times, bottles of Ensure.

When Arrisgado asked how her own weight stayed stable while her daughter's plummeted, Wright said she ate potato chips, cookies and sandwich meat.

On the morning of Jan. 8, 2007, Wright said she called Indigo's father after their daughter became unresponsive. He arrived a half-hour later and tried to get her to eat and drink water. Indigo was taken to the hospital after they called 911. “;I was scared of losing her,”; she said.

Schneider said Indigo's pulse rate was low and that her body temperature was 92.3 degrees. Schneider said she was unable to straighten Indigo's body because of her stiff leg and hip joints, an indication she had been immobile for some time. She had the beginning stages of a bedsore on her buttocks.

Indigo also suffered from diffuse brain atrophy, which means her brain was not growing at a normal rate.

All her basic bodily functions were shutting down, and she was too weak to stand on her own, said Schneider. She pointed out to the jury that Indigo did not have an eating disorder. During the examination, Indigo kept asking for food.

She was fed intravenously and underwent a blood transfusion, Schneider said.

The girl has recovered and lives in Charlotte, S.C., with her grandparents.