Two sisters from Alabama are at war over their mom, who remains jailed for a horrific crime 14 years ago for which one of the women still bears the scars.
One sister wants her mother freed from the prison where she is doing time. However, another sister feels very differently and wants her locked up.
Ashley Smith was just 14 months old when her mother, Melissa Wright, removed the racks from an oven, set the dial to broil and put the infant inside, head-first, in 2002.
The young girl’s delicate skin suffered third degree burns over 30 percent of her body.
Wright, who was 26 at the time, was sentenced to 25 years in an Alabama prison for attempted murder after pleading guilty to the crime.
District Attorney Randall Houston told Inside Edition: “During the time [Ashley] was in there, it was truly a torture chamber.”
The little girl was rescued by her dad, who heard her desperate screams. He pulled her out of the oven and rushed her to the hospital.
Now, 14 years and 38 surgeries later, the teenager still carries the scars from her burns on her arms and forehead.
“I’ve had 38 surgeries. It was painful but I got through it,” Ashley told Inside Edition. “I do not hate her, I do not love her, I don’t want to see her.”
She added: “I think that she’s crazy. I cannot imagine any mother wanting to burn their child.”
Ashley has been raised by her aunt and uncle, and refers to them as her parents.
Ashley’s sister, Courtney, was 8 years old at the time, and saw everything. But she believes Wright should be released.
Courtney, now 22, recalled: “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 their mom was struggling with mental illness and suffering from the side effects of anti-depressant medication.
“Voices in my head were telling me to put [Ashley] in the oven,” the mother told police at the time.
Courtney said: “When my momma did this, she wasn’t in her right mind.”
Courtney, who now has a son and a 1-year-old daughter of her own, says their mother has been treated for her mental problems in her 14 years in prison and deserves to be freed.
“She is not a monster,” she said. “She is a changed woman and people need to realize that.”
Both sisters appeared before the Alabama parole board. Ashley told how she felt.
“I can’t imagine anyone being in as much pain as I went through mentally and physically,” Ashley said in her letter she read out to the board.
Courtney has insisted that her mother is a “changed woman.”
The board refused to grant parole.
Courtney buried her face in her hands when she heard the decision. Once so close as children, the two sisters no longer speak to each other.