In 2002, Ashley Smith was just a 14-month-old toddler. But what happened to her at that tender age would have a lasting impact on her young life.
One day, Ashley's mother, Melissa Wright, picked her up, removed the racks from the oven, placed her daughter into the oven headfirst, and set it to broil at a scalding 600 degrees.
Her father reportedly ran into the kitchen when he heard the screams of his baby daughter and pulled her out. Her mother claims she heard voices who told her to commit the unthinkable act.
Ashley survived the traumatic, near-death experience. Though she lived to tell a tale of endurance, the now 15-year-old underwent 25 reconstructive surgeries to help heal her third-degree burns.
Yahoo News reports that this month, Wright, now age 40, was denied parole in the midst of her 25-year jail sentence. She won't be eligible again until 2021.
Ashley testified during the parole hearing that she was fearful of her birth mother being around her niece and nephew, telling the court that she doesn't “trust her and I’m afraid for their safety.” This put her at odds with her sister, Courtney Brunson, who pleaded that her mother was no longer “a danger to society.”
But US Weekly reports that Ashley's story of survival is also one of forgiveness. The teen remembers:
“I had a woman that would come into my room at the children’s hospital and she would talk to me and play with me before I went to sleep.
She would say, ‘Forgive, forget and move on… Don’t let it hold you back.’”
After she was removed from her mother's custody, Ashley was taken in by her aunt (whom she now calls mom) and uncle.
According to the Kansas City Star, the high school freshman is overwhelmingly positive about her life's hurdles, telling a court:
“I can't imagine anyone being in as much pain as I went through mentally and physically [...] Now I have a great life thanks to my mom, dad, stepbrothers and sisters.”
Ashley has discovered a way to forgive the woman who scarred her as a child. However, the teen claims Wright has not, to her knowledge, reached out to apologize.
The Elmore County District Attorney put it plainly in court: "How many adults can undergo the number of surgeries she has gone through in her life? That’s just incredible.”