true crime

Teen begs for her mum not to be released after she put her in the oven as a baby.

Fourteen years after suffering horrific burns to 30 per cent of her body, Ashley Smith looks every bit the healthy, happy teenager — but she almost didn’t survive.

In 2002, when she was just an infant, her mother Melissa Wright nearly killed her by putting her inside a hot oven.

Wright was sentenced to 25 years in prison, where she will now remain after the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied her request for early release.

Graphic images of Smith covered in third-degree burns were part of the reason Wright was refused, along with testimony from the teenager who told the board she couldn’t “imagine anybody being in as much pain as I was in.”


L: Ashley's burns covered 30 per cent of her body. R: Melissa Wright. Source: Alabama Department of Corrections

Smith, 14, has been raised by her aunt and uncle, who she considers to be her parents, and said she does not trust her mum, especially around her young cousins, aged eight and 27 months.

"They are about the same ages as me and Courtney when this happened," she said, according to the Daily Mail.

"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. And now I have a great life thanks to my mum, stepdad and brothers and sisters."

Local District Attorney Randall Houston said Smith deserved the right grow up away from her abusive mother.

"If Melissa had gotten out today, she could have legally enforced her parental rights," he told WSFA.


Ashley recovering from her injuries. Source: Alabama Department of Corrections

"I think that would have been a horrible thing for Ashley.

"The most important thing for us, was to allow Ashley to grow up, to become an adult and then, if she decided she wanted to have a relationship with her mother, then it would be her choice."

Wright was arrested in 2002 after Smith's father heard crying coming from the kitchen and found his daughter in the oven.

"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.

She reportedly told police initially that the baby "fell in the oven and the door slammed shut," but later claimed voices had told her to "trust Jesus" and do it.


Ashley Smith was relived by the board's decision. Source: Alabama Department of Corrections

Friends and neighbours said Wright, who was 26 at the time, had become increasingly unstable.

Her older daughter Courtney Brunson was one of those pushing for her release.

"I was only eight years old when it happened, she was different," she told the board.

"I seen what happened. I know how she was. She was not herself."

Wright will be eligible for parole again in 2021.