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Parents of dead 4-year-old have separate hearings

Parents of dead 4-year-old have separate hearings

Judge enters not-guilty plea for mother as lawyer not present; father gets new attorney to avoid conflict

July 15th, 2018 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News

In this mug combo Benearl Lewis, left, and Khadijah LaShawn Wright are shown.

The parents of a 4-year-old boy facing felony charges in connection with the child's death appeared at separate pretrial hearings Friday in Bowie County, Texas.

Benearl Jermane Lewis, 24, is charged with capital murder in the March 8 death of D'Money Lewis, and Khadijah Wright, 25, is charged with injury to a child by omission. Both appeared Friday before 5th District Judge Bill Miller.

Wright appeared alone Friday morning, although her attorney of record is Jasmine Crockett.

"No, sir," Wright replied when Miller asked if she has spoken with Crockett.

Miller said Crockett has not been present for any of the three hearings that have been scheduled for Wright since her indictment.

"In fact, we specially set this for arraignment today," Miller said. "I'm going to enter a not-guilty plea on your behalf. If Ms. Crockett hasn't shown up by the August hearing, I'm going to consider appointing a public defender for you."

Miller scheduled Wright's next pretrial hearing for Aug. 20. Her case is scheduled for trial in December.

Benearl Lewis appeared before Miller in the afternoon Friday. Benearl Lewis was represented by the Bowie County Public Defenders Office, but that changed at the hearing.

The public defenders office recently hired an investigator who previously worked for the Wake Village Police Department, the agency that conducted the initial investigation into D'Money's death. Because of the newly created conflict, Miller appointed a private lawyer, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, to represent Benearl Lewis.

Benearl Lewis' case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Aug. 20 as well. Both remain in custody with bail set at $1 million each.

Benearl Lewis was not supposed to be alone with D'Money or his 6-year-old brother, according to probable cause affidavits penned by Wake Village, Texas, Police Department Detective Todd Aultman and used to create the following account.

"There is a long history of abuse through Texas and Arkansas CPS (Child Protective Services), as well as Texas and Arkansas law enforcement agencies," the affidavit states. "It's obvious that Khadijah Wright knew of the abuse and has never been protective."

Wright allegedly left her job about 2 p.m. March 6 at a local manufacturing plant without clocking out or telling anyone she was leaving after receiving a text from Benearl Lewis that there was an emergency. Just over two hours later, the couple came upon a traffic accident being worked by Texarkana, Texas, police at West Seventh Street and Bishop Lane on the Texas side. The couple told officers they had a child in the car who was unresponsive and not breathing and that they lived in the 200 block of Redwater Road in Wake Village.

While in cardiac arrest, D'Money was taken by ambulance to Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana, Texas. Aultman's report states he observed a large area of bruising on the boy's back and "strap" marks on D'Money's legs and back. Medical staff members at Wadley told Aultman the boy was suffering from bleeding in the brain and bruising to his back and chest "as if he had been kicked."

After initial treatment at Wadley, D'Money was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Medical staff there told investigators that the boy's injuries were inconsistent with the account allegedly provided by his parents and more likely the result of abuse.

Lewis and Wright allegedly told investigators that D'Money had "jumped or fallen from a deep freezer and that his eyes rolled back in his head," the affidavit states. Lewis allegedly claimed that, after determining the child wasn't breathing, he and Wright decided to take the boy to the hospital in their car.

Following D'Money's death March 8, his body was taken to Dallas for an autopsy. Among the damage documented to the child's body was a "space occupying subdural hematoma" that had caused the youngster's brain to "herniate down into his spine," the affidavit states. Also noted at autopsy were bruising to the child's legs and back and tissue damage in his kidneys.

If convicted of capital murder, Benearl Lewis faces life without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection. If convicted of injury to a child, Wright faces five to 99 years or life in prison.

 

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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