Two Alabama sisters are at odds over the fate of their mother, who put one of them into an over 14 years ago and almost killed her. The older sister claims their mother is “not a monster” and wants her released from prison; the younger sister, the victim, wants her to remain behind bars.
As Yahoo News reports, Melissa Wright was 26 years old back in 2002, when she set her oven to the Broil setting and then put her infant daughter, Ashley Smith, inside. The girl’s daughter heard her desperate screams and rescued her.
Ashley, who was just 14 months old at the time, survived, but the incident left her with third-degree burns over 30 percent of her body. District Attorney Randall Houston described what it must have been like during those few moments Ashley spent in the oven, where the temperature approached 600 degrees.
“During the time [Ashley] was in there, it was truly a torture chamber.”
Now pushing 15, Ashley has had 38 surgeries to repair the damage done to her by her mother that day. She was raised by foster parents, whom she considers her mom and dad. Her biological mother is, to her, just “Melissa.” And she wants nothing to do with Melissa, who is serving 25 years for the crime in an Alabama prison.
“I do not hate her, I do not love her, I don’t want to see her. I think that she’s crazy. I cannot imagine any mother wanting to burn their child.”
Melissa’s other daughter, Courtney, now 22, has a different view of her mother than her sister does. She was eight at the time of the incident, and saw everything.
“While I’m standing by the refrigerator, she picked up Ashley and told her that she loved her just like everything was fine. And next thing you know, there goes Ashley in the oven and the oven door shuts.”
Courtney says that her mother was struggling with mental illness at the time, saying she was suffering from the side-effects of anti-depressants.
“When my momma did this, she wasn’t in her right mind.”
At her own trial, Smith told the court that voices in her head told her to put Ashley in the oven.
In the 14 years since she’s been in prison, Courtney says Melissa has gotten the mental health treatment she needs. She says her mother is a changed woman and deserves to be freed from prison.
“She is not a monster. She is a changed woman and people need to realize that.”
Both sisters appeared before an Alabama parole board to make opposing arguments about their mother’s fate. Ashley, the victim, argued for keeping her mother in prison. Courtney argued that she should be released. The court sided with Ashley and denied Melissa parole.
Needless to say, the two sisters do not speak to each other.
Back in February, The Montgomery Advertiser sat down with Ashley to talk about what life has been like since almost being burned alive as an infant. Now a teenager, Ashley doesn’t remember the incident that almost cost her her life. What she does remember are the surgeries, which began when she was three.
“I’m not shy about it. Most of my friends know what happened. When I was little, if somebody asked me what happened I told them my house caught on fire. Now I just tell them.”
Fortunately the surgeries have done their job; about all that remains is a small scar across her back, which her family jokingly refers to as The Zipper.
[Feature Image by sakhorn/Shutterstock]