Sunday makes nine years since former NBA player Lorenzen Wright’s decomposing body was found in the Memphis woods.
Finally, one of the most tragic and egregious criminal sports tragedies in American history has found some closure as Wright’s ex-wife pleaded guilty to several felonies, including facilitation of first-degree murder in his gruesome shooting death.
Sherra Wright’s guilty plea is considered a surprise development in one of Memphis, Tennessee’s most explosive murder cases. Lorenzen Wright was a star in Memphis and a revered hometown product who attended Memphis University and then played 13 years in the NBA, including a stint with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The details, investigation and subsequent arrests following his death, took on OJ Simpson murder trial proportions in Memphis where Wright was an unblemished hero in the community, doing charity work with youth and coaching in summer leagues.
His ex-wife almost got away with it. The case went cold for years.
Rather than prolong a trial that she says was deteriorating her health, Sherra was finally ready to come clean as the mastermind behind her husband’s gruesome murder.
This week she pleaded guilty to facilitation of a criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder in a hearing in Shelby County Criminal Court. Judge Lee Coffee sentenced her to 30 years in prison in the plea deal, eligible for parole in nine.
Sherra Wright and co-defendant Billy Turner were charged in December 2017 with first-degree murder.
Laced in tragedy and irony, the plan to murder Wright was conceived in the church that Turner, a Memphis landscaper, and Sherra Wright both attended.
Turner’s trial remains scheduled for Sept. 16, but he’s already pleaded guilty to a gun charge related to the murder.
This was no spur of the moment decision or spontaneous incident. Lorenzen Wright’s murder was coldly premeditated and it took several attempts to get the job done.
According to a court affidavit, witnesses said Sherra Wright masterminded a plan to have two men kill Lorenzen Wright at his home in Atlanta, but that attempt failed.
She and Turner then conspired to kill him in Memphis, and they tossed one of the guns used in the shooting in a Mississippi lake, authorities claim.
Lorenzen Wright’s family members agreed to the plea deal, prosecutor Paul Hagerman said.
“This is obviously a violent offense, an offense that has torn apart a family, an offense that’s been highlighted throughout Memphis and the media and everything else,” Hagerman said after the hearing.
Domestic Abuse Leads To Murder?
At the same time, Sherra Wright’s decision to plead guilty and the heinous nature of the murder doesn’t change the fact that the killing may have been motivated by years of infidelity and abuse she sustained while married to Lorenzen.
We just don’t know. It doesn’t excuse the murder and that’s why she’s doing hard time, but it does raise questions as to whether or not Lorenzen Wright was the honorable family man he projected to the public.
“The beatings were consistent, and it led to her face being disfigured,” defense attorney Juni Ganguli said. “She feared that Mr. Wright would never leave her alone, and she recruited Billy Turner to kill Mr. Wright.”
It’s possible that Wright was a victim of domestic abuse by a man who had two sides to his soul. There are many women who are abused by men who have pristine public reputations but are exhibiting abusive behavior towards their wives and kids at home. It’s called faking the funk, but Lorenzen Wright wasn’t considered that kind of guy.
In an interview with The Commercial Appeal, Sherra Wright said she pleaded guilty for the sake of her children but didn’t really drop any further insight.
“I’m just going to say because of my children, I have made this decision, and because of them I’m not going to go into many more details right now, but I’m just going to say everything is not what it seems,” she was quoted as telling the paper.
On the other hand, Sherra Wright also received $1 million from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy in 2014, but defense attorney Laurie Hall said she did not think the life insurance money was a motivation for Wright’s killing.
We can’t take her word as bond though.
The world will never know what really caused Lorenzen Wright’s callous murder. Was it a love triangle? Was it greed? Who knows?
What we do know is that it takes years of built-up hate for a spouse to plan the execution of their significant other.
Sherra Wright finally admitted to the murder, but there’s still these lingering questions about why she planned to murder a man so respected by his community and peers in the first place.