A Tennessee man has been found guilty for his role in the death of Lorenzen Wright, nearly 12 years after the basketball player’s brutal murder.
A jury found Billy Ray Turner guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy for the death of the prominent basketball athlete, according to the Associated Press. The 34-year-old NBA star’s decomposing body was found in a swampy field outside his native Memphis in 2010, 10 days after his ex-wife reported him missing from her Collierville, Tennessee home.
Someone shot Wright up to 11 times, including at least twice in the head and twice in the chest, according to Commercial Appeal.
Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, pleaded guilty in July 2019 for being the mastermind behind Wright’s murder, as previously reported. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison with credit for 20 months served. Her first parole hearing is scheduled for May 11 of this year, as she becomes eligible for parole on July 15, 2022.
“It’ll never be closure because I’ll never see my son again,” said Lorenzen’s mother, Deborah Marion, following Turner’s conviction. “This is just some satisfaction for me and my family.”
Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Billy Ray Turner to life in prison on the murder charges, according to the Associated Press. Turner has yet to be sentenced for the remaining crimes for which he was convicted.
Authorities said Lorenzen Wright left his former wife’s home following a visit with their children on July 18, 2010. A call to 911 was placed from the victim’s phone just after midnight on July 19, according to ABC News. The caller was unable to identify himself before 11 gunshots were heard in a recording of the chilling call.
According to ABC News, Turner was a local landscaper who knew Sherra Wright from church. Prosecutors theorized that Turner was the woman’s “romantic love interest” when she lured her ex-husband to the field, where he was brutally gunned down.
Sherra Wright told authorities that her husband left her home with money and drugs in his possession, as previously reported. She claimed he left with an unidentified male and overheard him saying he was going to flip something for $110,000.
The investigation stalled, primarily due to the condition of Wright’s body and the deterioration of physical evidence, until 2017, when Memphis Police found what was believed to be the murder weapon in a lake in Walnut, Mississippi, according to Commercial Appeal.
It was Sherra Wright’s cousin, Jimmie Martin, who pointed investigators to the gun, the Memphis newspaper reported.
Seven years after the murder, Turner and Sherra Wright were arrested for murder.
Jimmie Martin became the star witness in Turner's murder trial, describing himself as a co-conspirator in the murder, according to Action News 5. Martin struck a deal with prosecutors so that anything about which he testified, including an earlier failed attempt to kill Wright in 2010 at the victim’s Atlanta condo, would not be used against him.
Martin claimed that in June 2010, he went with Sherra Wright and Turner to kill Lorenzen Wright, according to the Associated Press. Per Martin's testimony, the three of them were armed when they snuck into Wright's condo through a window, finding an unknown man sleeping on the couch. The trio returned to Tennessee without harming Wright.
Martin stated that he helped Turner do away with the weapon after Lorenzen was shot to death later that year, but was not present for the actual murder.
“Sherra said the plan went through,” Martin testified, according to Action 5 News. “Everything went through that night.”
Martin is currently serving a 20-year sentence for an unrelated conviction of second-degree murder, court records show. As reported by the Associated Press, Martin was facing charges of murdering his girlfriend and said Sherra Wright helped him pay his legal fees.
“That’s what it was about,” said Lorenzen Wright’s mother following Turner’s conviction. “Money.”
Lorenzen was a talented basketball star whose career rocketed after being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1996. He also played for the Atlanta Hawks, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers over 13 seasons before finally retiring from the NBA in 2009.
He was the father of Sherra Wright’s six children, adding to the shock of Sherra’s involvement in the slaying.
“When you’re the mother of six kids, and you’re married to their father, and you would [want to] see him dead, that’s just evil,” Wright’s friend, Montae Nevels, told ABC News. “That’s wicked.”
Sherra Wright received $1 million from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy, according to Commercial Appeal. In 2014, she settled a court dispute over how she spent the funds, which were meant to benefit their six children.
A sentencing date for the remainder of Turner’s charges has not been scheduled. Turner was previously sentenced to 16 years for separate gun charges when, as a convicted felon, he was found with firearms in his possession during his 2017 arrest for Lorenzen Wright’s murder.