It’s summer in Memphis, Tennessee, when the body of beloved NBA player Lorenzen Wright is retrieved from a secluded field on the outskirts of the city. For years, he was the toast of the town, a larger-than-life figure in a city obsessed with basketball. Now he has been murdered in cold blood – and the case will remain a mystery for the next seven years.
Growing up in the college town of Oxford, Mississippi, Lorenzen was drawn to basketball from a young age. Herb, his father, was a professional player in Finland, but every summer he would return to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, where Lorenzen would visit and work on his own game.
Eventually, Lorenzen’s practice paid off, and as a senior in high school he relocated to Memphis to play for Booker T. Washington High. There he became the team’s star player and began dating Sherra, the daughter of his basketball coach. After graduating, he stayed in Memphis for college and signed up to play ball for the Tigers.
Soon, Sherra and Lorenzen had started a family of their own – a clan that eventually grew to include seven kids. And in 1996 he was picked to play with the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA draft. Three years later, he moved on to the Atlanta Hawks. But even though he had become a big name in basketball, he still returned to Memphis every year and became known as a generous figure in the local community.
By the time that the Memphis Grizzlies signed Lorenzen in 2001, his appointment was something akin to a hero coming home. And even though he eventually returned to play for the Hawks, he would remain one of the city’s most beloved sons. But while Lorenzen was idolized both on and off the court, his relationship with Sherra had begun to deteriorate.
In 2003 Lorenzen and Sherra’s daughter Sierra passed away, a victim of sudden infant death syndrome. And in an already troubled marriage, it was another difficult blow. Apparently, both spouses were unfaithful, and the couple’s extravagant spending had landed them in financial difficulty despite Lorenzen’s NBA wage.
In 2009 Lorenzen and Sherra divorced. And by the next year, the basketball player’s money woes were worse than ever before. Apparently, creditors repossessed his expensive Atlanta home, and he struggled to cover the $26,000 a month in child support that the court had awarded his ex-wife.
On July 18, 2010, Lorenzen was in Memphis. Apparently, his plan had been to visit family and friends in the area before returning to Atlanta. However, he would never make it home. Late that evening, he was spotted leaving Sherra’s home – the last time that anyone would see him alive.
Four days later, Lorenzen’s mother reported her son missing to the police. Soon, an investigation was launched – and it wasn’t long before things took a shocking turn. According to Sherra, her ex-husband had been in possession of both cash and drugs when he had left her home, and had been talking about making a lucrative deal.
Five days after Lorenzen was reported missing, there came another twist in the tale. On July 27, it emerged that a 911 call had been placed from the missing man’s cell phone the day after he was last seen. Apparently, the dispatcher heard multiple gunshots – but for some reason delayed reporting the incident.
The next day, a grisly discovery was made. In a tree-covered field some 20 miles outside Memphis, Lorenzen’s bullet-filled body was found. Clearly, he had been dead for some time, and his remains had begun to decompose. But what had happened to the man once viewed as one of basketball’s brightest stars?
As police began to investigate Lorenzen’s murder, all of Memphis mourned the loss of a son. And at his memorial service, NBA stars gathered with the dead man’s friends and family to pay their final respects. But as the days wore on, the truth about what had happened remained elusive.
Soon, stories about Lorenzen’s dealings with the criminal underworld began to emerge. Apparently, he had connections with Craig Petties, a key figure on the Memphis drug scene. Moreover, Sherra had previously told police that three suspicious men had arrived at her property some weeks before Lorenzen’s disappearance. Could these sinister figures have played a role in the basketball player’s death?
Although police investigated Lorenzen’s alleged criminal links, they could find nothing that pointed to the murderer. And for seven long years, the case remained unsolved. Then, in the fall of 2017, Sherra’s cousin James Martin – already in prison for an unrelated crime – revealed a startling story.
According to Martin, Sherra had arrived at his home soon after her ex-husband disappeared. Allegedly, she told him that she and Billy Ray Turner, a minister who had worked as a gardener on the Wrights’ property, had murdered Lorenzen, leaving his body lying in a remote field. Apparently, the two had been embroiled in an affair. Moreover, they wanted Martin’s help to remove any evidence that might point to them.
By that point, other suspicious stories had arisen surrounding Sherra and her behavior after her husband’s disappearance. Apparently, she had been spotted holding a bonfire in her garden on July 19 – despite the searing summer temperatures. And according to neighbors, she had also been behaving oddly in the months before Lorenzen’s death.
In 2015 Sherra published a book entitled Mr. Tell Me Anything – an alleged fiction that appeared to be a thinly veiled account of her life with Lorenzen. In it, the main character, Sharon Robinson, struggles to maintain a difficult relationship with her unfaithful and abusive NBA player husband.
If Sherra and Lorenzen’s marriage was as volatile as her novel implies, might she have taken drastic measures to finally escape her ex-husband? In November 2017 police revealed that they had located one of the guns used to kill Lorenzen in a Mississippi lake. Then, in December, they arrested Billy Ray on suspicion of murder.
Just ten days after, Sherra herself was arrested. Apparently, investigators had uncovered evidence suggesting that she and Billy Ray had traveled to Atlanta back in 2010, where they had allegedly tried to murder Lorenzen. And even though that attempt had failed, police believe that the couple were ultimately successful.
Now, Sherra and Billy Ray are awaiting trial for first degree murder. Meanwhile, Lorenzen’s mother – who has never stopped campaigning tirelessly for her son’s killer to be brought to justice – is attempting to gain custody of Sofia, the only one of her grandchildren still young enough to be adopted. For her, the court case could mean closure at last.