The 9 Year Wait: Lorenzen Wright Justice

When it was the first day of school in Oxford, Mississippi, it was an ordinary day for 10 year old Lorenzen Wright, and for his father Herb. Herb lived in Memphis and ran a rec center. That afternoon a game got a little bit chaotic because the losers weren’t abiding by the rec center rules of respect and sportsmanship. Herb Wright kicked them out. When he heard they were returning that night with guns, he ran to the phone to summon help but it was too late. They were already there. One shot missed him by inches. The second didn’t and he couldn’t feel his legs. He was paralyzed.

“He didn’t let it get him down so I wasn’t going to let it get me down. He just told me what had happened and that he was going to dedicate himself more to my basketball and teaching me how to play. (Lorenzen Wright)

Lorenzen Wright had a lot of adversity over his 13 year NBA career (Clippers, Hawks, Grizzlies, KIngs, Cavaliers), but just like his father, he couldn’t outrun bullets. He couldn’t magically erase a devious plot engineered by his ex-wife Sherra to get her greedy hands on the insurance money.

Lorenzen Wright was murdered and his body was discovered nine years ago this Sunday.  It has taken this long for justice to prevail.

Sherra Wright Robinson pled guilty to the murder of Lorenzen Wright, and to the facilitation of murder. She is responsible for his bullet riddled body. She is complicit in the dumping of that body into a lumpy field so it could rot in the sweltering sun.

Ever since his murder, Sherra Wright Robinson has been the prime suspect but without evidence (until a murder weapon washed up last year on a Mississippi lake shoreline), the case went cold. Robinson’s plea deal is a 30 year sentence but she’s eligible for parole which has some of Lorenzen’s family and friends a little ticked off, that she could be out on the street while Lorenzen is still dead.

If the case went to trial Sherra would have gone rogue because what is there left to lose? She would have said Lorenzen abused her and so his murder was part of battered wife syndrome. Except she wasn’t his wife anymore. They were divorced at the time of his murder.

Sherra Wright wrote a book, Mr. Tell Me Anything, five years after she facilitated her ex-husband’s murder. The book’s protagonist is a woman named Sharon Roberson. She is the same height and has the same number of children as Sherra Wright. Roberson’s love interest is from Mississippi, like Lorenzen Wright, and is 6-11, like Lorenzen Wright, and plays in the NBA in the same cities Lorenzen Wright played in. The character Sharon Roberson’s mother died of cancer; Sherra’s mother died when she was young. Throughout the book, Sharon Roberson is angry at her NBA husband for his affairs and that she had to quit her job and bury her dreams while caring for their children. The book ends alluding to a part two, but her arrest squashed her literary career.

That her defense team was ready to use the fictional account of her marriage as a basis for her murderous intentions was one of those defense team strategies. Throw something at the wall and hope it sticks. There wasn’t evidence of abuse in their marital past, no records, no whispers, which doesn’t mean it wasn’t an issue for Sherra Wright Robinson but Lorenzen isn’t here to defend himself nor his marital behavior. The strategy just feels slick and a way for Sherra Wright Robinson to be the victim when Lorenzen Wright was the victim.

Always dramatic, Sherra Wright Robinson told The Commercial Appeal she pled guilty for her children. But there wouldn’t have been a plea deal without cooperation from Lorenzen Wright’s family. They had to give the okay.

When I was in the position Lorenzen Wright’s family was in, I was asked did I want to accept a plea. I said no. Go to trial. But then the deceased wasn’t famous, it hadn’t taken 9 years for justice, and the victim was just a schoolteacher. The family of Lorenzen Wright is desperate for closure and the last thing they wanted was to drag out a case that, at trial, would have blamed the victim.

The September trial would have been covered not just by ESPN but multiple cable stations. They would have aired the grisly details as entertainment; it was a sensational case. A former NBA player missing for 10 days then discovered. A shriveled mess, his body had started to decompose and the coroner could never say for certain how many bullets his body took. From that point forward, Lorenzen Wright was a mystery case. Who would do this? And, why? The suspects ranged from a Mexican drug cartel to a local gang thug, to his ex-wife who was suddenly on a lavish spending spree.

As grisly as the Memphis murder turned out to be, Lorenzen Wright was supposed to be murdered in Atlanta, at his condo. But it failed and a plan B had to be concocted. But a detail that was overlooked was the dumping of the gun in a Mississippi lake. What if it drifted ashore? Lake water rises and falls depending on the winter rain.

Sherra Wright’s co-defendant Billy Turner will still face trial on September 16th.  Will Sherra Wright testify against him? The plea deal probably forces her to. But this story isn’t about Sherra Wright other than her venality. It’s about Lorenzen Wright and who he was. His father’s son. He said about Herb Wright, “the two of us are closer than any father and son I know. He guides me on the basketball court and off it.”

For Lorenzen Wright’s children there are no pick up games at the gym or teaching about life’s hard lessons, no Friday night movies or Christmas mornings. Sherra took that from them and without remorse.

“He taught me things and he’d say ‘One day, if you make it in the NBA, you’re going to have a bunch of free time, and this way you won’t have to go out and do something crazy”, Lorenzen once said.  “He taught me to think before you do something. Think. If you think, you’ll never go wrong.”