Couple sentenced to life in girl's starvation


POSTED: Friday, December 04, 2009

A city prosecutor said he will ask the state parole board to require a man and woman who nearly starved their 12-year-old daughter to death to serve 50 years in prison before they are eligible for parole.

Circuit Judge Rhonda Nishimura told Melvin Wright Jr. and Denise Wright they violated their parental obligation to provide for their daughter, and sentenced each of them to life in prison with the possibility of parole yesterday.

“;This trust was breached,”; Nishimura said. “;You have failed in that regard, and this is your sentence.”;

A jury found the Wrights guilty in September of attempted second-degree murder. The sentence handed down by Nishimura is mandatory under state law, but the Hawaii Paroling Authority decides how long an inmate must serve before being eligible for parole.

When city ambulance workers went to the Wrights' Kinau Street apartment on Jan. 7, 2007, they found their daughter, Indigo Wright, near death. She was unresponsive, breathing intermittently and had a blood sugar level so low it did not even register. She weighed just 29 pounds.

“;This is such a horrible and atrocious event,”; said Maurice Arrisgado, senior deputy prosecutor. “;I've never heard of anything like this type of deprivation in the United States.”;

;[Preview]    Couple sentenced for starving 12-Year-old daughter

Denise and Melvin Wright showed no emotion when they were given their sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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He said he hopes the conviction and sentence of the Wrights sends a clear message that this type of treatment of children will not be tolerated.

The lawyers for Melvin and Denise Wright said they will appeal.

The state took custody of Indigo Wright and placed her in foster care with her paternal grandparents in South Carolina.

Arrisgado says the girl will never fully recover and will suffer from a developmental handicap for the rest of her life because of the malnourishment she experienced.

Melvin and Denise Wright pleaded no contest and guilty respectively to endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor, in an earlier case in 2000 involving their daughter.

They divorced six months after the ambulance took the girl to a hospital in critical condition in 2007.