AL woman convicted of putting baby in hot oven in 2002 denied parole

Published: Jul. 26, 2016 at 9:42 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2016 at 10:11 PM CDT
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(Source: WSFA 12)
(Source: WSFA 12)
(Source: WSFA 12)
(Source: WSFA 12)

ELMORE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - An Elmore County woman who put her child in a broiling oven in 2002 was denied parole on Tuesday.

Ashley Smith, 14, was forced to grow up too soon with pain and emotional scars that most adults couldn't fathom.

Elmore County District Attorney Randall Houston says Ashley's last memory of her mother, Melissa Wright, was at 14-months-old.

"Evidence showed that Melissa removed the racks out of the oven, turned it to broil and waited for it to heat up and then put Ashley head first into that oven," Houston said.

Wright pleaded guilty to attempted murder, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Smith, the Elmore County District Attorney's Office and the AG's Office protested the early release of Wright. Painful pictures of Smith's childhood burn wounds and stretched scar tissue, quickly captured the board's attention.

Smith bravely read a letter to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles about Wright, only identifying her biological mother as Melissa, calling her aunt who has raised her, as mother.

"I can't imagine anyone being in as much pain as I went through mentally and physically," Smith said. "Now I have a great life thanks to my mom, dad, stepbrothers and sisters."

Despite her 28 surgeries and lingering medical issues, Houston says Ashley's physical and emotional healing is extraordinary.

"She is an extremely strong child," Houston said. "How many adults can undergo the number of surgeries she has gone through in her life? That's just incredible."

Ashley's older sister asked the board for an early parole, calling Wright a changed woman.

"I was only 8-years-old when it happened, she was different," Courtney Brunson said. "I seen what happened. I know how she was. She was not herself."

After a short discussion, the board promptly denied Wright's parole. A board member spoke directly to Smith stating he was impressed with her recovery.

"Good luck to you, we are really sorry for your troubles," the board member stated.

Houston said it was important to his office that Wright was sentenced to 25 years, and that she serves every day of that sentence.

At the time of Wright's release, Smith will be old enough to determine if she wants a relationship with her biological mother.

"If Melissa had gotten out today, she could have legally enforced her parental rights," Houston said. "I think that would have been a horrible thing for Ashley."

Wright will be up for parole again in 2021.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.