State rests in trial of mom accused in 4-year-old’s death

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: Bowie County prosecutors rested the state’s case Thursday afternoon in the trial of a mother accused of failing to protect her children from an abusive father.

Khadijah Wright’s defense attorney, Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, is expected to make an opening statement and begin calling witnesses Friday morning. Wright is charged with injury to a child by omission in the March 2018 death of her 4-year-old son, D’Money Lewis. D’Money’s father, Benearl Lewis, is currently serving a life term for murder.

Wright faces five to 99 years or life if found guilty.

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Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards questioned a fellow employee of Wright’s on Thursday morning. Mary Popkiss testified that she knew Wright from high school and that the two worked at the same table at Mayo Manufacturing for months before D’Money’s death.

Popkiss said Wright often spoke of her and Benearl Lewis’ efforts to deceive Child Protective Services staff members. At the time of D’Money’s death, a CPS safety plan prohibited Lewis from being alone with his children or spending the night in the home with them. Popkiss said Wright told her that Lewis would silence his cell phone and hide in the house if a CPS caseworker stopped by for a home visit and that she hoped they would soon close their case.

Witnesses testified Wednesday that child welfare agencies in three states had initiated 19 investigations into the couple before D’Money died in March 2018 of massive head injuries caused by Benearl Lewis.

Popkiss testifed that Wright left work in a hurry at about 2:15 p.m. without clocking out before her shift ended March 6, 2018. Popkiss said she texted Wright later in the day and learned that D’Money was in a coma after falling from a freezer.

Under cross examination by Crockett, Popkiss said she believes Wright was the family’s main source of support and that she cared for her children.

Texarkana, Texas, Police Officer Brent Hobbs testified that he was working a car accident in the 4400 block of West 7th Street when Benearl Lewis approached his patrol car at about 4:15 p.m. and asked for help with a child who was not breathing. Hobbs said he flew into crisis mode and recalled firefighters and an ambulance which had just departed the scene.

The first responders were able to regain D’Money’s pulse but he never regained consciousness. Dr. Karen Farst, a pediatrician who specializes in child abuse and who treats patients at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, said D’Money’s injuries were considered “unsurvivable.”

Farst said the bleeding and swelling caused by massive head trauma was pushing D’Money’s brain into his spinal column and said he had blunt force injuries affecting major organs of his body. Farst said she believes D’Money is a victim of child abuse.

Medical Examiner Candace Schoppe testified under questioning by First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp that D’Money died as the result of abuse. Schoppe described the brain injury as severe and added that the damage to multiple organs simply complicated an already grim physical condition. Schoppe pointed out scars on D’Money’s head and face which she said were “suspicious” for abuse.

Photos of bruising on D’Money’s back Schoppe said likely came from some sort of forceful impact. Linear marks on D’Money’s inner thighs were probably caused by a belt, a cord or a rope, Schoppe testified.

As photos of D’Money’s body being autopsied were played for the jury, Wright became overcome with emotion and left the courtroom.

Farst and Schoppe testified that D’Money’s extensive injuries did not result from a fall from a 34-inch high freezer.

Interim Wake Village, Texas, Police Chief Todd Aultman testified that he was called shortly after D’Money arrived at a local hospital because Wright and Lewis claimed he fell from a freezer at their home on Redwater Road in Wake Village.

Aultman testified as photos of a hole in the sheet rock of the home, a foot or two from the floor, was shown, and as a photo of a folded belt lying on a table was displayed for the jury. Aultman testified that he also found copies of the CPS safety plan prohibiting Lewis from being alone with his children, in a kitchen drawer.

In a recorded interview of Aultman, retired Wake Village Police Chief Ronnie Sharp and Wright, Wright claims she was present when D’Money fell from the chest freezer. Wright said D’Money fell flat on his face. In the March 8, 2018, interview, Wright claims she left work abruptly because Lewis asked her to.

In the interview, Aultman and Sharp confront Wright with statements allegedly made my D’Money’s 6-year-old brother. The brother allegedly told authorities that Lewis shoved D’Money into a wall when Wright wasn’t home.

Aultman asked Wright if Lewis was abusing her and referred to several documented incidences of domestic violence by Lewis.

At the end of the interview, Aultman asked to look at the text message from Lewis that brought Wright home in a rush. As he looks in the phone, Wright becomes upset and leaves the office.

The trial is expected to continue Friday morning before 5th District Judge Bill Miller and a jury of six men and six women.

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