A mother who placed her 14-month-old toddler in an oven set to 600 degrees in 2002 was denied early release on Tuesday, July 26.
Melissa Wright pleaded guilty to attempted murder in 2003 and was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Her daughter Ashley Smith, who is now 15, received third-degree burns and underwent 28 agonizing reconstructive surgeries, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. The horrific act took place at their home in Millbrook, Alabama, on a street called Harm’s Way. The baby’s father, Robert Smith, heard the screams, and pulled her from the oven.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Wright, 40, originally told authorities that Smith fell from her arms as she was cooking, rolled into the oven and the oven door shut behind her.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Smith’s sister Courtney Brunson read a statement to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles arguing that Wright is no longer a danger to society. “I went to visit her multiple times,” Brunson said, per the Montgomery Advertiser. “She has went through classes for mental health. She has been through child-abuse classes. She has actually got the help she needs. She is on the right medication to help her with her mental illness. I feel like she has changed. When I go visit her, I can actually see the difference in her.”
District Attorney Randall Houston was unmoved. During his presentation, Houston showed the panel graphic images of Smith swathed in bandages. “At the time it happened, the evidence showed that Melissa had removed the racks out of the oven, turned it to broil, waited for it to heat up and put Ashley head-first into that oven,” he reminded the board.
When it was Ashley’s turn, she expressed concern for her niece and nephew, who are 8 years old and 27 months old. “They are about the same ages as me and Courtney when this happened,” she said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “I honestly do not trust her and I’m afraid for their safety. I can’t imagine anybody being in as much pain as I was in.”
She added: “I do not hate Melissa, but I do not love her. I forgave Melissa.”
Wright was denied parole until 2021, the maximum delay.
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