Hawaii mother accused of starving daughter, 12, takes witness stand
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Denise Wright, on trial for allegedly trying to starve her daughter to death, took the witness stand in her own defense this morning in Family Court.
Wright described growing up in a South Carolina home where she saw her stepfather violently abusive to her mother and said when she married Melvin Wright Jr. she “backed down” to his wishes.
The couple’s daughter Indigo was born in 1994 in South Carolina and came with her parents to Hawaii in 1995 when Melvin Wright was assigned here as a U.S. Marine, she said.
The child was bright and healthy as an infant and toddler, her mother said.
After Melvin Wright left the Marines, he and his family moved to several different homes on Oahu before settling in an apartment on Kinau Street in Makiki.
That’s when he began “having affairs on me” and staying out all night, Denise Wright said.
He also required that Indigo be schooled at home because “he didn’t want her speaking pidgin or wearing slippers,” she said.
She said she was responsible for teaching Indigo and depended on her relatives on the Mainland to supply books and learning materials.
Asked by her lawyer, Debra Loy, if she knew that the state imposed educational standards on home schooling, Wright said, “No, I did not.”
Her testimony continues this afternoon.
The prosecution rested its case against the Wrights earlier today.
They presented evidence that the 12-year-old girl weighed only 29 pounds when paramedics took her to the hospital in January 2007.
Dr. Victoria Schneider, a pediatrician and child abuse expert, said the girl was near death when she arrived in the emergency room at Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children.
The child, who suffered brain damage from malnourishment, survived and is now living with her grandparents in South Carolina.