Zumba instructor accused of prostitution is a great mom, friend says

KENNEBUNK (AP) — The dance instructor accused of turning her Zumba studio into a place of prostitution was an honors high school student who attended college and ran dance classes for the local parks and recreation program. She hosted charity events benefiting Toys for Tots and breast cancer research.

Alexis Wright
Joel Page

Alexis Wright, 29, turns towards her attorney Sarah Churchill, left, during her arraignment Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Portland, Maine on 109 counts of prostitution, violation of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly providing sex for money at her Kennebunk fitness studio and office. Wright pleaded not guilty on charges she ran a prostitution business out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio and secretly filmed her encounters. (AP Photo/Joel Page)

That's why some who know Alexis Wright say she's the last person they thought would get caught up in a headline-grabbing scandal.

The prostitution case involving the bubbly fitness instructor and more than 100 accused clients has made international headlines from this seaside town of 10,000 known for its beaches, charming homes and Tom's of Maine toothpaste, as well as the nearby "Summer White House" while President George H.W. Bush was in office.

For local residents, the criminal case has been evolving in slow motion, with police releasing more names of accused clients every two weeks. So far, 39 men have been identified, and more names are being released Friday.

Police said Wright videotaped many of the encounters without her clients' knowledge and kept records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months. Explicit sex videos also surfaced online.

While she is portrayed as Zumba instructor gone wild, those who know her say that there's another side than the one in the news coverage — and that she didn't deserve to have her son removed from her care two weeks ago.

Andrew Scherzer, a longtime friend, said Wright is a great mother to her 7-year-old son and has lived a life full of Hallmark-style moments, with camping and canoeing trips and outings to the Portland Children's Museum and the New England Aquarium.

"If you were an outsider and spent time with her and her kid, the last thing you'd suspect is that she had this side business going on," said Scherzer, who went to high school and reconnected several years ago with the salsa-loving Wright, who attended concerts given by his Afro-Cuban band.

Others feel the same way.

Evelyn Barbour, who met Wright, 29, in the fifth grade and remained friendly through high school, said classmates at Mount Ararat High School were genuinely shocked by the charges.

"I thought she was a really nice person. I never, ever saw her be mean or rude to anyone. She was extremely kind," said Barbour, now a science teacher at the high school.

Wright was an honors student at Mount Ararat, where she played field hockey and participated in the concert band, wind ensemble and chamber singers.

She played clarinet and left a favorable impression on her band director.

"She was really nice kid, a sweet kid. She worked hard. She did what was expected. She blended in with lots of kids. She didn't stand out in any bad ways. She was just a nice, sweet kid," said Allen Graffam, the director.

After high school, Wright took classes at Keene State College and Southern Maine Community College before earning a natural sciences degree in 2010 from the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn College.

Around the same time, the single mom was becoming known around Kennebunk for her Zumba classes, first offered in the auditorium of the Town Hall.

She hosted Zumba charity events for earthquake victims in Haiti, the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer and Toys for Tots, among others. Those who attended her fitness classes remembered her as fun and energetic.

But police said there was more than Zumba going on after she opened a dance studio on Main Street, and later rented an office across the street.

Wright, of nearby Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts including prostitution and invasion of privacy for acts performed in her dance studio and in the rented office. Her business partner, insurance agent Mark Strong Sr., of Thomaston, pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor counts.

Sarah Churchill, Wright's lawyer, said the media have presented a one-sided view of her client. Churchill anticipates more information about Wright's good works will make its way into the public's eye as the case proceeds to trial.

Wright lives in nearby Wells with her husband, whom she married over the summer. Both have declined to comment, as have other family members.

A lawyer who has seen the complete list of Wright's alleged clients says it contains the names of more than 150 men, some of them prominent. The 39 men who have been summoned so far on suspicion of engaging Wright's services include a former mayor and the local high school ice hockey coach.

The remaining names will trickle out for weeks to come.

As for Scherzer, he said he'd heard that there were sex videos posted online, but he said he figured what Wright did behind closed doors was her business. He knew her as an attentive mom who always had time and energy for her son. He said her husband is a contractor who has supported Wright throughout the ordeal.

Regardless of what criminal penalties she faces, she already paid a steep price when her son was removed from her care, Scherzer said.

Details of the custody case weren't available, including where her son is, but a judge on Wednesday dismissed a complaint from the boy's father — not her husband — seeking full custody. The father, Benjamin Hopkins, alleged she posed nude in pictures with the boy, who was partially covered with a sheet.

The judge dismissed the complaint when neither the father nor Wright showed up for a court hearing on the matter, The Portland Press Herald reported.

"She feels like she's dead right now. She's having the only thing that's important to her ripped away," said Scherzer, who's worried about his friend. "Under the circumstances, she's doing what she can, which is to not break down and go crazy and give up."

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Comments

Diana Currier's picture

I

I do toys for tots, breast cancer research, AND cystic fibrosis..... that doesn't give me the right to break the law and make lots of money that is tax free.....

Diana Currier's picture

oh

AND heart disease!

Steve  Dosh's picture

Zumba instructor accused of prostitution is a great mom, friend

†hanks David for that insight •  21:30 HST ƒriday ( still )
Maine , the way life should be ?
Ahh ,Vacationland . .little more to the leƒt dearie . .
i hear her license plate read " GR8INBED" too , didn't it , Jason ? l o l
A friend will help you move
A great friend will help you move a body :)
/s , Steve , Hawai'i •

Jason Theriault's picture

Maybe she is a good mom.

But....

1. She is going to jail. 109 counts of prostitution carry a maximum of like 50 years. I think she'll get a year or two at most.

2.He kid doesn't need to be in the middle of this storm she created. It bad enough he's gonna lose his mom for a year or so, but then to have to deal with the crap at school and whatnot.

Anyway, I( don't think she is a good mom because she put herself and her kid at risk for easy money.

AL PELLETIER's picture

HUH?

Jason this is the most screwed up post you've made---not the message, but the way it was delivered--PROOF READ MY FRIEND!

Steve  Dosh's picture

Al ¿ 21:45 hst ƒlyday (

Al ¿ 21:45 hst ƒlyday ( still ) l o l . ..
You're not on that list , R U ? Phew ,. .just checking ?  Good •
I hear she used to tell some of her clients , " The joke's in your hand , ßub ."
. ..ƒunny stuff . Imagine being the child of a good , Zumba ® mom like that ?
" Yeah , my mom's the Biddeford ME man whore . Why you ask ? "
/s , Steve , father of four , widower & not a user or abuser •
Look up your friends , relatives , and neighbors here
--> http://sor.informe.org/cgi-bin/sor/step1.pl <-- as a public service •

Kristina Gailloux's picture

hard to feel bad

It's hard to feel bad for someone who was breaking the law and living a 2nd life. If she didn't want her son taken away then she shouldn't have been doing what she was doing in the first place.

Audrey Alcala's picture

She should have thought of

She should have thought of the well being on her son when she started all this. She obviously wasn't thinking about being discrete when she put these videos on line either!!! She should have used all those brains she had in high school and thought all this out before she started her little prostitution business!

Steve  Dosh's picture

. . Audrey and Kristina ,

. . Audrey and Kristina , 22:00 HST ?  Friday night ( still )
I've never used a male or female prostitute although i have known and happen to know some right now here in Hawai'i
Personally i think it should be made legal and they should be medically checked on a regualr basis , like in Europe , where it is and they are
But that's a bit like arguing for medical marijuana or hashish , also legal in parts of Europe
We are somewhat prudish here in the U S A and if you visit Monticello or Mt. Vernon , VA and take the tours you'll find out that Jefferson fathered a black child and Washington grew pot
Nude sunbathing is a common practice across the pond , for vitamin D absorption
What i want to know is , " How come the people at nudist colonies are people you do not want to see naked anyway ? " - l o l - We have a clothing optional beach about 5 miles from my house . I know enough to have not ever gone there http://www.pnhp.org/news/articles-of-interest /s Dr. Dosh and ohana . Aloha from Pahoa HI 96778 u s a

Kristina Gailloux's picture

why would u write a reply to

why would u write a reply to me that doesnt even make any sense at all...totally weird dude.

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