It’s been seven years since Lorenzen Wright’s body was found in a remote field outside Memphis, unrecognizable, decomposed and riddled with bullets, and for much of that time there have been few, if any, developments of note in the unsolved July 2010 murder of a 34-year-old NBA veteran.
“They just called me to say they have some good news,” Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, told the Commercial Appeal of her conversation with police on Thursday. “They said they found the murder weapon. … That’s the only thing they told me, they have the gun. They definitely found the gun.’’
A Memphis native, Wright played two seasons at Memphis State, where he became a local legend, before being drafted seventh overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1996 draft. The 6-foot-11, 225-pound big man played a dozen NBA seasons, including a handful for his hometown Grizzlies. He sat out the entire 2009-10 campaign, but was reportedly considering a professional comeback in 2010.
It was then that 911 dispatchers in Germantown, Tenn., received a cell phone call from someone who could only muster the word, “Goddamn,” between gunshots. In a gross display of negligence that cost the district a legal settlement with Wright’s family, 911 dispatchers, unable to place the location of the call, failed to alert police for eight days. On the ninth day, Wright’s body was discovered in a field not far from his mother’s house. He was reportedly still wearing a gold necklace and an expensive watch.
The Grizzlies hosted a massive memorial service at FedEx Forum in August 2010.
Memphis police had few leads beyond the bullets found at the scene, Wright’s tenuous ties to the city’s drug cartel and some alleged threatening messages from his ex-wife, Sherra Wright. The last known person to see him before his disappearance on July 18, 2010, she was a prime suspect in the immediate aftermath, and interest intensified when a 2013 report revealed she had spent almost the entirety of his $1 million life insurance policy in 10 months. They had six children together.
The ex-wife was never charged, though, and if there were any developments in the case, they had largely dried up by 2015, when Sports Illustrated published an in-depth investigation entitled, “Who killed Lorenzen Wright? Ex-NBA player’s murder remains a mystery.” In the story, Memphis police detective Mike Ryall insisted the department had received several recent leads, but Wright’s mother, who had taken up the case on her own time, said of the investigation, “It’s not cold; it’s frozen.”
So, when police discovered a gun at the bottom of a lake in Walnut, Miss., roughly an hour’s drive from the crime scene, it marked the case’s most significant progress since the murder. The FBI dredged the lake in June, according to the Fox affiliate in Memphis, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has since conducted forensic testing on the alleged murder weapon. Police provided no further details.
“I want them to continue to work like they’re working, so that my grandkids can know what’s really going on,” Marion told WREG-TV in Memphis. “We’ve just been walking around here for seven years speculating on what happened, but now it’s all come to a cute little package. That’s why I can’t wait until they call me back and say, ‘Look, we got this done, that done.’ That’s what I am waiting on — the next call — but this one was good with the gun. I hope somebody gets scared.”
Lorenzen Wright would have turned 42 on Nov. 4.