NEW BOSTON, Texas: Opening statements and testimony began Wednesday morning at the Bowie County courthouse for a mother accused of failing to stop her 4-year-old son’s father from abusing him.
Khadijah Wright, 26, is charged with injury to a child by omission in the March 6, 2018, death of D’Money Lewis. D’Money’s father, Benearl Lewis, was found guilty of murder last year in the death and sentenced to life in prison.
“There were 19 total contacts with (child welfare), 19,” First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury in opening statements. “For years Benearl Lewis was abusing those children and for years she (Khadijah Wright) knew about it. She chose him over the life of that child.”
Crisp told the jury that Wright and Benearl Lewis repeatedly moved between Texas and Arkansas and once to Mississippi to avoid investigations by child welfare officials. Crisp told the jury of six men and six women that Wright constantly covered for Benearl Lewis when people would ask about marks and bruises on D’Money and her three other children. D’Money has an older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister.
Wright was living with the children and Benearl Lewis at a home in Wake Village, Texas, when D’Money suffered traumatic brain and other injuries March 6, 2018. At the time of D’Money’s death, a Child Protective Services care plan prohibited Benearl Lewis from having any contact with the children unsupervised and was not allowed to spend the night in the home with them.
Multiple employees of Child Protective Services testified that Wright would often claim Benearl Lewis was out of her life when he was really living in the home with her and the children.
Tasha Cooper testified that she lost her job as a caseworker for Child Protective Services in Bowie County following D’Money’s death. Cooper said that Benearl Lewis was never at the residence when she visited Wright’s home and that she reminded Wright of the care plan every time they talked.
“Khadijah said she didn’t know where he (Benearl Lewis) was and that he wasn’t living in the home,” Cooper testified.
Cooper said she realized Wright and Benearl Lewis were in violation of the care plan in February 2018 after several staff members at D’Money’s preschool called a child abuse hotline and reported he had injuries. The educators testified that D’Money told them his father coached him to say he bumped his head crawling under a table in the school cafeteria.
Cooper said Wright inadvertantly admitted that Benearl Lewis was picking up the children from school alone and backed up his story about the injuries reported Feb. 20 as having come from bumping a table. The school was not aware of the CPS care plan, witnesses testified.
Cooper said she was notified in March that the children were not attending preschool and contacted Wright to determine where the children were being kept while Wright was at work. Cooper said that on March 6, while D’Money was hospitalized in Texarkana with a massive head injury and not expected to survive, Wright spoke to her on the phone and did not mention that D’Money was in the hospital.
Cooper said Wright claimed her mother and sister had been watching the children while she worked.
“I asked her specifically about each child and how they were doing and she gave me stories about each one and how they were doing fine,” Cooper testified.
Cooper said that when Wright realized she intended to visit her mother’s and sister’s homes to make sure they were safe, Wright finally told her D’Money was in the hospital. Cooper said Wright claimed the boy fell from a chest freezer and hit his head. She said Wright claimed D’Money had a seizure after falling and spoke as if she was there when he was hurt.
Cooper testified that Wright would attempt to pit different CPS staff members against each other by claiming that one had said the other didn’t do their job well.
Wright’s lawyer, Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, asked several witnesses if they were aware of domestic violence by Benearl Lewis. Witnesses testified that Wright spent a couple of nights in a local domestic violence shelter after Benearl Lewis broke her nose and that Benearl Lewis assaulted her once when she was hospitalized. Crockett reserved her opening statement in the case for the opening of the defense’s case, which will begin after the state rests.
Deena McFarland, who was working for Bowie County CPS at the time of D’Money’s death and who now works in Arkansas’ child protective system, testified that she accompanied law enforcement to Wright’s home on the evening of the day D’Money suffered fatal injuries. McFarland said she observed a hole in the wall close to the floor and a bloody rag.
Testimony is expected to continue Thursday at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston before 5th District Judge Bill Miller.