Man sentenced to life in prison for murdering NBA’s Lorenzen Wright

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A jury on Monday convicted a Tennessee man of killing former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, whose bullet-riddled body was found in a field in his hometown of Memphis nearly 12 years ago.

The 12-member jury deliberated about two hours before finding Billy Ray Turner guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the death of Wright, a 6-foot, 11-inch center who previously served 13 seasons had played in the NBA. He retired after the 2008-2009 season. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Turner, 51, to life in prison for murder. He will be sentenced on the other charges at a later date.

Coffee called Wright “a holy son” of Memphis and told his mother, Deborah Marion, that the trial might not bring her to a conclusion but would celebrate “the good” about her son.

The murder is one of the most publicized murders in Memphis history. Wright’s decomposing body was found on July 28, 2010 in a swampy field in east Memphis with gunshot wounds. The 34-year-old father of six had been missing for days before his body was discovered.

Turner had already pleaded guilty to possession of a gun as a convicted felon after being found with two guns when arrested in the 2017 killing of Wright. Turner is serving a 16-year sentence on a separate weapons charge.

Prosecutors allege Wright’s ex-wife Sherra Wright hatched a plan to kill her ex-husband and recruited Turner and her cousin Jimmie Martin to help her.

Lorenzen Wright on the pitch.
Days after he was reported missing, Lorenzen Wright’s body was found with gunshot wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis.
The Commercial Appeal /Landov, NBAE via Getty Images

Turner and Sherra Wright were charged in December 2017, more than seven years after the murder. In July 2019, Sherra Wright made a surprising guilty plea to an accessory to murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Turner is a landscape gardener who knew Sherra Wright from church and prosecutors say had a secret love affair with her.

At the time of Wright’s assassination, Martin was charged with killing his girlfriend and he said his cousin helped pay some of his legal fees. Martin was convicted in this case and is currently serving a prison sentence. In the Wright case, he received impunity.

Sherra Wright listens as District Attorney Paul Hagerman reads a list of evidence against her during a hearing.
Sherra Wright allegedly hatched a plan to kill Lorenzen and had a relationship with Turner.
Jim Weber via AP

Martin testified that Sherra Wright recruited him and Turner to kill Lorenzen Wright. Parts of his testimony were challenged by defense attorney John Keith Perry, who said the information Martin gave investigators was a farce and full of lies.

Martin testified that he and Turner met with Sherra Wright to plan the murder and went to Lorenzen Wright’s Atlanta condo to shoot him, with the understanding that he would be paid.

Armed with handguns, Turner and Martin went to Wright’s Atlanta apartment, entered through a window, and found someone sleeping on the living room couch — but it wasn’t Lorenzen Wright, Martin testified. Turner and Martin returned home without killing anyone.

Lorenzen Wright #55 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during NBA Media Day.
According to prosecutors, Wright was visiting Memphis from Atlanta when he was murdered.
NBAE via Getty Images

Martin told District Attorney Paul Hagerman that he was in Batesville, Mississippi, just after midnight on July 19, 2010, at the time of the shooting. Martin said he went to Memphis Field with Sherra Wright a few days after the shooting, and she essentially confessed.

Lorenzen Wright visited Memphis from Atlanta. Sherra Wright said she lured her ex-husband to the field by telling him she was going to meet someone there to get some money, Martin testified. According to Martin, she said that she and Turner ambushed and pursued Lorenzen Wright, who jumped a fence and tried to run away, before shooting him dead in the field.

The jury heard a gunshot-filled 911 call from Lorenzen Wright on the night of the murder.

Martin also said Turner and Wright removed evidence from the shooting and that he went with Turner to dispose of the gun by dumping it in a lake in northern Mississippi. Martin said he told detectives where the gun was in 2012. It was later found by FBI divers.

In the closing arguments, defense attorney John Keith Perry said Martin’s “crazy, made-up” story was not credible. Perry said Martin — not Turner — was in Memphis the night Lorenzen Wright was shot.

“You can’t really give him much credit,” Perry said of Martin.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman defended Martin’s testimony, saying Martin’s immunity agreement required him to tell the truth and testimonies to investigators and prosecutors had been consistent.

“It’s literally been the same for 10 years,” Hagerman said.

Neither Turner nor Sherra Wright testified at the trial. Man sentenced to life in prison for murdering NBA’s Lorenzen Wright


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