MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Authorities charged a man Tuesday in connection with the slaying of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, more than seven years after Wright’s bullet-riddled body was found decomposing in a Tennessee suburb.
Billy Turner, 46, was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder, and was being held on $1 million bond, said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. Court records did not list a lawyer for him or a date for a court hearing. Weirich and Police Director Michael Rallings declined to discuss any details of the arrest or investigation.
Wright’s body was found in suburban Memphis on July 28, 2010, 10 days after the 34-year-old was reported missing. He was shot multiple times. The seven-year investigation into his death has been one of the Memphis Police Department’s most high-profile unsolved cases.
Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, had told news outlets recently that she was not giving up hope as the search for her son’s killer dragged on.
Police said last month that they had found a gun used in the killing in a lake near Walnut, Mississippi, about 75 miles (120 kilometres) east of Memphis.
The 6-foot-11 (210-centimetre) Wright played for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams as a forward and centre over 13 seasons before retiring in 2009. He averaged 8 points per game and more than 6 rebounds per game during his career.
Born and raised in Memphis, he was a fan favourite thanks to his charity work with youth and his father’s involvement as a coach in summer leagues. Former NBA players and friends including Anfernee Hardaway and Elliot Perry attended a memorial service for Wright in the days after his body was found.
The father of six was last seen on July 18, 2011, as he left the home of his ex-wife, Sherra Wright. According to an affidavit, Sherra Wright told police she saw him leave her home carrying money and a box of drugs.
Before he left, Sherra Wright said she overheard her ex-husband on the telephone telling someone that he was going to "flip something for $110,000," the document said.
Sherra Wright said Lorenzen Wright left her home in a car with a person she could not identify. The affidavit said Sherra Wright gave the statements to police in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, where she lives, on July 27 — nine days after he left her house for the last time.
In the early morning of July 19, a police dispatcher in the suburb of Germantown received a call from Wright’s cellphone. Dispatchers acknowledged they heard noises like gunshots before the call was dropped.
Dispatchers said they didn’t alert patrol officers or commanders because they couldn’t confirm it came from their jurisdiction. They didn’t send a patrol officer or relay the information to Memphis police until days later.
Wright’s mother filed a missing-person report with Collierville police on July 22, 2010. Authorities in Collierville were accused of dragging their feet in the days after the report was filed, and an apparent lack of communication kept authorities from linking the 911 call to the missing-person report.
Wright’s body was found in a field near some woods in the height of summer, complicating the investigation because evidence had likely deteriorated in the heat. An autopsy report showed bullet fragments were lodged in Wright’s skull, chest and right forearm.
The corpse was badly decomposed, weighing 57 pounds (25 kilograms).Wright’s playing weight was around 225 pounds (100 kilograms).