Billy Turner

Year after year, Lorenzen Wright’s mother and other family members have gathered on the plaza outside of the FedExForum to fan the flame of interest in the former pro-basketball players unsolved homicide in July 2010.

Technically, it was a cold case – a homicide without a whodunit answer. That changed on Tuesday when Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich detailed that a Shelby County grand jury had indicted Billy R. Turner of Collierville and that he was jailed – on a $1 million bond – for killing Wright.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Weirich said numerous times, echoed by Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings.

Questions abound: Who is the 46-year-old Turner? Did he know Wright? If so, how and how long? Is he connected to anyone else who knows Wright? Did he commit the crime alone? … Why did he do it?

Knowing that public interest is high and that such questions are being bandied throughout Greater Memphis, Rallings stepped to the podium to ask for help. Not for the Wright case specifically, but rather for the 71 unsolved homicides among the 193 homicides that had been committed up to that moment in 2017.

Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, joined with family members, friends and supporters during a 2016 vigil in front of FedExForum.
(Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“The Lorenzen Wright case has stayed in the public eye for many years …We’ve said many times, we never stop investigating. There are cases that are unsolved and they may not have received the same media attention,” Rallings said. “We just want to remind everyone that we need citizens to come forward.”

Of the 122 solved homicides, 96 percent were committed by someone the victim knew, Rallings said.

“They were acquainted, a family member or a friend. We believe that many of the unsolved homicides will fall into the same category. Someone knows who committed these homicides and we need these individuals to come forward. Any amount of information could lead to an arrest,” he said.

Then he mentioned the S-word – snitching – and quickly took issue with the thoughts so often associated with the term.

“This is not about snitching,” he said. “This is about doing the right thing for victims like two-year-old Laylah Washington (a drive-by shooting victim in June) or 10-year-old little Richard Jordan (a drive-by shooting victim in November)….or a military man like Robert Wong (killed in his home on Thanksgiving Day) and many other men and women whose families need closure.”

Neither Rallings nor Weirich would give any details on what led investigators to Turner. His indictment and arrest came after the November 9 revelation that the weapon believed used in the homicide had been located in a lake near Walnut, Miss.

Early on the morning of July 19, 2010, Germantown Police received a 911 call from Wright’s cell phone, but the call was interrupted by gunfire.

Wright’s body was discovered July 28, 2010, in a field near Hacks Cross and Winchester. He had been shot multiple times. According to the indictment, Wright was killed sometime between July 17 and July 20 that year. He was 34.

The father of six was last seen on July 18, 2010, 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).

NOTE: To reach CrimeStoppers of Memphis and Shelby County, Inc., call 528-CASH (528-2274).

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)