As the annual vigils for Lorenzen Wright have gone, this one was short, largely because of tortuous heat, and yet decidedly different in a far more important way.
Gathered on the FedExForum plaza Friday evening, Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, and other family members wiped sweat from their brows and talked of justice for the slain hometown hoops star. And for the first time in the eight years since the start of the solemn tradition, someone was behind bars charged with Wright’s murder.
Wright’s bullet-riddled body was found in a wooded area near Hacks Cross Rd. and Winchester Rd. on July 28, 2010. The fatal shooting of the former NBA stalwart and Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) star had been a cold case, thawing dramatically at the end of 2017.
Now, Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright-Robinson, and an associate, Billy Ray Turner, are jailed on murder and conspiracy charges, with an alleged accomplice – convicted murderer (unrelated case) Jimmie Martin – having agreed to testify to the deadly plot.
Vivian Ingram, a self-described close family member, was among the vigil-goers wearing shirts bearing Wright’s likeness. Hers stood out; it was a throwback to the first vigil.
“I’ve had this shirt wrapped up in plastic and I’ve treasured it for the last years because I wanted to save it for when justice was being issued,” Ingram said. “I think it will be issued now.”
One of Marion’s cousins started the vigil with a prayer that was punctuated with these lines: “ “God, we thank you for the justice that is on its way. … We want to thank you for opening this case back up again.”
Marion introduced her youngest son for a brief reflection about “my big brother.” Later, referencing the tragic end-of-life experience “of my first-born child,” she pointed out a handful of plain-clothed officers. They were, she said, “my police,” noting that they had persevered, “actually followed the evidence” and succeeded when others had not been able to crack the case.
“I just want y’all to pray for me and Lorenzen’s kids in California,” Marion said. “I’m going to see them some time this summer. I really appreciate y’all coming out.”
Montae Nevels, who befriended Wright in 1993, said, “2010 when he was found dead was not the beginning of the tragedy of his life. …There is a lot that is going to be revealed.
“(We’re going) to let the powers that be do what they do and bring justice to this family.”