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Lorenzen Wright was a bonafide hometown hero in Memphis, Tennessee, where he played for the Grizzlies basketball team. Despite his fame and the fortune he made as an NBA player, it would take years before his killers paid for their crimes.
Born Lorenzen Vern-Gagne Wright in 1975, he spent his early years in Oxford, Mississippi, before moving to Memphis as a teenager.
Lorenzen’s father, Herb Wright, played basketball professionally before becoming an officer with the Memphis Police Department. When Lorenzen was 7, his father was paralyzed from a gunshot wound and remained wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
“Herb never let the wheelchair stop him. Ren loved his daddy. He loved him and Herb was his first sort of coach. Taught him a lot about basketball,” family friend Dr. Bill Adkins told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
At 6 foot 11 inches tall, Lorenzen had a natural advantage and talent at basketball. He was a star player in high school and participated in the highly competitive Amateur Athletic Union, which drew players from across the country. While playing for the AAU, Wright began seeing Sherra Robinson, his coach’s daughter. In 1994, Wright began playing for the University of Memphis and Sherra became pregnant with their child.
Lorenzen was the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, landing a spot on the Los Angeles Clippers. When not in California or on the road, he would return to Memphis to be with Sherra and their child. Lorenzen and Sherra married in 1998, and welcomed another child in 1999. That same year, Wright was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
But in 2001, Wright moved home after being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom he would play for the next five years. Sherra and the kids moved with him to Collierville, Tennessee, a wealthy enclave just west of the city. By 2002, they had seven children, three girls and four boys.
For all their affluence, the Wrights were not immune to tragedy. In 2003, their infant daughter, Sierra Simone Wright, died unexpectedly from SIDS. Both parents were devastated by the loss.
“That was probably the pivotal point in their marriage. Their relationship became very volatile. The arguments just continued on. On and on and on,” said Dr. Adkins.
Lorenzen would later return to the Hawks and play for the Sacramento Kings before finishing his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009. By then, his marriage was over as well.
Lorenzen and Sherra divorced in 2010. While he lived in Atlanta, Sherra stayed in Memphis where their children were enrolled in school.
Then, on July 22, 2010, Lorenzen’s mother, Deborah Marion, called the Collierville Police Department to report her son missing. He was in town for his sister’s baby shower but never showed up, according to CNN.
Lorenzen usually stayed with Sherra and the kids when he was in Memphis. When contacted by his family, Sherra seemed unconcerned.
“She said, ‘There’s nothing to be worried about. I’m sure he’s just gone, he’ll come back. This is what Lorenzen does,'” prosecutor Paul Hagerman told “Snapped.”
Friends said Lorenzen had dinner with his old fraternity brothers from the University of Memphis and later went with them to watch one of his sons play basketball. During the game, Lorenzen received a flurry of text messages from his ex-wife.
“Sherra started sending Lorenzen nudie pictures. Like, you know, ‘OK, c’mon. Come get this,'” friend Michael Gipson told “Snapped.”
Lorenzen and his son were dropped off at Sherra’s house around 10 p.m. When four days passed by and no one had heard from him, his family contacted the authorities. Investigators spoke with Sherra, who said she had last seen Lorenzen on the night of July 18. She claimed he was carrying money and drugs and later left with two armed men.
Sherra also alleged she overheard Lorenzen on his cellphone saying he was going to "flip something for $110,000," according to CBS News.
Lorenzen's friends and family told investigators that both of the Wrights had extramarital affairs. They were also beset by financial difficulties following Lorenzen’s professional retirement.
“They had cars that had been repossessed and I don’t think he was in a good place financially,” former Memphis Police Lt. Darren Goods told “Snapped.”
After subpoenaing Lorenzen’s phone records, investigators saw his last outgoing phone call was to 911 in Germantown, Tennessee, at 12:12 a.m. on July 19.
“Hey, goddamn!" Lorenzen exclaims on the call, which was obtained by “Snapped,” before a hail of gunfire is heard in the background.
“Hello? Hello? I don’t hear nothing but gunshots,” the 911 dispatcher can be heard saying before the call goes dead.
“That call was not followed up on at all. It wasn’t shared with any of the other agencies. It was just ignored,” said Hagerman.
Investigators were able to determine the call came from southeast Memphis. After a brief search of the area, they found Lorenzen Wright’s badly decomposed body in a wooded spot on July 28, 2010, according to Memphis NBC-affiliate WMC-TV. He was 34 years old.
“A decomposing body laying out nine days in the Memphis weather in July — he was nothing but bones,” said Goods.
At the scene, investigators found shell casings from both a small caliber handgun and a 9 mm revolver, suggesting multiple shooters. Lorenzen was still wearing his jewelry and had a large sum of cash on him, eliminating the possibility of a robbery scenario.
An autopsy revealed Lorenzen had been shot five times; twice in the head, twice in the chest, and once in his forearm, according to WMC-TV.
Lorenzen’s family told investigators that the Wrights’ financial woes were largely the result of Sherra’s spending habits. Following Lorenzen’s death, Sheera received more than $1 million in life insurance money. Within 10 months, she had spent $970,000, according to WMC-TV.
His family was also adamant he would never be involved in selling drugs.
“Anybody that knows Lorenzen, first of all, knows that he doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. Drugs? No. Lorenzen was not a street guy,” friend Montae Nevels told “Snapped.”
Investigators wanted to confront Sherra about the inconsistencies in her story but learned she had retained a lawyer and was no longer willing to speak to them.
But Sherra’s cell phone records were subpoenaed and showed she had been campaigning Lorenzen for weeks to visit her in Memphis with sexually explicit text messages. At the same time, she was also in communication with two men, Jimmie Martin and Billy Ray Turner.
“Sherra had exchanged a series of suspicious, appeared to be coded, messages with Jimmie in the days before the murder,” said Hagerman.
Martin was Sherra’s cousin and was currently out on bail for the second-degree murder of his girlfriend, Martha Jean Bownes. Turner, meanwhile, had met Sherra at church and also did her landscaping work.
Investigators obtained location data from Turner’s phone and found he was in the same area as Lorenzen on the night of the murder, according to Memphis Fox-affliate WHBQ-TV.
The case stalled, until a break came in in 2013, when Jimmie Martin was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2007 death of his girlfriend and sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to Memphis’ Commercial Appeal newspaper. In exchange for immunity, Martin offered to tell investigators about his involvement in the murder of Lorenzen Wright.
Martin said Sherra had asked him to help Turner kill Lorenzen, at one point traveling to Atlanta to do so, but that he was in Mississippi on the night of the actual murder. Sherra subsequently told him she and Turner had gone through with the murder and enlisted Martin to help dispose of the murder weapons at a lake in Mississippi, reported WHBQ-TV.
An initial search of the lake turned up nothing. Several years later, when the cold case squad took over the investigation, the lake was searched again and the murder weapon was retrieved, according to Memphis ABC-affiliate WATN-TV.
On December 5, 2017, Billy Ray Turner, 46, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Lorenzen Wright. A week later, Sherra Wright was arrested near her home in Riverside, California in December 2017 and charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder.
In July 2019, Sherra Wright, 48, pleaded guilty to facilitation to commit murder and facilitation to commit attempted first-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to Memphis CBS-affiliate WREG.
Billy Ray Turner was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy first-degree murder in March 2022 and sentenced to life in prison, according to NBC News.
In March 2022, Sherra Wright’s request for parole was denied, according to WMC-TV. She is next eligible in 2027.
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