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Crime News Dateline

The Shocking Murder of NBA Star Lorenzen Wright: "Ultimate Evil"

NBA star Lorenzen Wright disappeared in July of 2010, ten days later his body was found in the Tennessee woods riddled with bullets.

By Jill Sederstrom

As an NBA star,  Lorenzen Wright spent most of his life in the spotlight.

How to Watch

Catch up on Dateline: Unforgettable on Peacock or the Oxygen App.

But the beloved basketball player’s harrowing final moments were much darker. A disturbing 911 call placed by the star captured his last moments alive as he ran for his life in the dark Tennessee woods moments before he was gunned down by his killer. 

“Oh (expletive),” Wright said in the recording obtained by Dateline: Unforgettable as gunshots rang out. 

The recently retired father of six was just 34 years old when his life was taken in a cold-blooded execution.

"I am used to covering cases of everyday people who sadly fall victim to extraordinary tragedy. Lorenzen Wright sticks with me because I’d never covered a story involving a superstar athlete before,” Dateline Correspondent Andrea Canning shared.  “He had it all. Money, fans, fame, but speaking to those close to him I learned that beyond the spotlight, Lorenzen was like so many others featured on Dateline. He was a loyal friend, a doting father, and a devoted son and when he mysteriously disappeared his loved ones were desperate to find him.” 

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Who was Lorenzen Wright? 

Lorenzen, or Ren as he was often known to his friends, was born in Mississippi before making his way to Memphis, Tennessee in high school. He quickly became a hometown by hero playing high school and college basketball in the city before he was drafted to the Los Angeles Clippers in 1996.

Lorenzen eventually made it back to his hometown, where he played for the Memphis Grizzlies, cementing his status as a local icon. 

“Everybody loved Lorenzen, he was just popular,” family friend Bill Adkins recalled of the 6’11” athlete. “He walks in the door and everybody knows it’s him.” 

Wright was known for his philanthropy and gave back to the city that so happily embraced him. 

“The guy would give you the shirt off his back,” Adkins said. 

After earning around $55 million during his career, Lorenzen retired and was enjoying the new phase in life. 

But on July 18, 2010, after spending the day with close friend Phil Dotson, Lorenzen mysteriously vanished while staying at the home of his ex-wife Sherra Wright. 

“He said I’ll call you later and so that being about 10 p.m. I left,” Dotson said of his last interaction with his friend. “I got home and I never heard from him.” 

His Cause of Death

Eight days after he disappeared, Memphis Police discovered that 911 call took place in Germantown, a suburb of Memphis, and linked it to Wright. 

“It made the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Former Memphis Police Chief Toney Armstrong said of the call. “That was probably his last spoken words and listening to that tape, it just kind of brought it all home that you knew that he was beyond distress.” 

But the night of the shooting, Germantown Police were unable to geolocate the call and never followed up on it.

Ten days after he disappeared, Wright’s body was found in a wooded area after police were able to track the call using cell phone tower data. He had been shot multiple times and suffered wounds to the chest and face. 

“It was an assassination,” Armstrong said.

At the time he disappeared, Lorenzen had been living in Atlanta, but flew to Tennessee that weekend to spend time with loved ones and stayed at his ex-wife’s home. 

She told police Lorenzen left that night sometime before 3 a.m. and never came back. 

RELATED: Man with History of Chilling Abuse Allegations Shot Dead on the Side of the Road

Who was Sherra Wright?

Lorenzen and Sherra had a long and tumultuous relationship. They first met when Lorenzen was in high school. Sherra’s father had been his basketball coach and although Sherra was five years older, sparks quickly flew between the pair. By the time he was drafted by the NBA, they had welcomed their first child together. 

The couple got married in 1998, but the relationship was rife with fighting, jealousy, and constant accusations that both were unfaithful. 

“He was a rock star and with being a rock star comes certain temptations that come at you,” Dotson said. 

The couple also lost their baby daughter, Sierra, to sudden infant death syndrome in 2003, adding to the strain on the marriage. 

In one heated exchange, after Lorenzen reportedly found Sherra with another man, media reports suggested he kicked open the door, pointed a gun at them, and attacked Sherra, leaving her with a “deep cut” on her hand and scratches on his face. No charges were ever filed and Lorenzen publicly denied ever hurting his wife.

In 2010, the couple divorced, yet they still remained a part of each other’s life. As part of their divorce agreement, Lorenzen agreed to take out a $1 million life insurance policy that would be paid out to his six children upon his death with Sherra acting as the custodian of the money.

The Investigation

From early on in the investigation, police and Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, suspected Sherra, known to be a big spender, may have had something to do with his death. 

“I told the police y’all need to go talk to his ex-wife,” Marion said.

When investigators talked to Sherra, who was in the process of becoming an ordained minister, she told police that last time she saw her ex he had left her home with a box of drugs he planned to sell to get some quick cash, but investigators were never able to find any evidence to support the theory that drugs may have been involved. 

For years, the case went cold until investigators finally got the break they needed. Sherra’s cousin Jimmie Martin was convicted of killing his girlfriend and was looking for a lighter sentence. 

He told detectives Sherra had orchestrated the murder of her ex with the help of gardener Billy Ray Turner. Martin, who sat in on the planning meetings, said he and Turner first tried to take Lorenzen out at his Atlanta home. Lorenzen wasn’t there and after finding his roommate sleeping on the couch, they got spooked, and left the condo. 

Sherra then decided to lure Lorenzen to Memphis and sent him a series of explicit text messages promising sex.

“I just woke up sooooooo horny,” she wrote in one.

According to Martin, Sherra and Turner later told him they’d pulled off the murder. According to his account, Sherra lured Lorenzen to a wooded area after telling him she needed to meet a man to pick up some money. Once they got there, Turner, who was waiting in the woods, began to shoot as soon as Lorenzen walked up.

Martin claimed he and Turner disposed of the handgun used in the shooting by throwing it into a small lake in Mississippi.

Yet, even with Martin’s account of the crime, investigators still didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest and an initial sweep of the lake didn’t uncover the weapon. But in 2016, a new search of the lake by a dive team uncovered the murder weapon. 

Turner and Sherra, who was now living with her family in California, were both arrested in late 2017.

Dotson called the plot to take Lorenzen’s life the “ultimate evil.”

Lorenzen’s mother set off fireworks in the cemetery to commemorate the news of the arrests. “We had to celebrate,” she said.

The defense planned to claim in court that Sherra had arranged the hit, but only because she was trapped in an abusive relationship. However, she ultimately pleaded guilty to facilitation to commit murder and attempted murder in 2019 as part of a plea deal.

Sherra Wright's Release Date

Sherra was sentenced to 30 years behind bars. She is currently serving out her sentence at Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville and will be up for parole in May 2027.

Turner was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in 2022.