Police: Lorenzen Wright died of gunshot wound - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Police: Lorenzen Wright died of gunshot wound

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Lorenzen Wright (file photo) Lorenzen Wright (file photo)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) -  Memphis police confirmed Thursday that former University of Memphis and NBA basketball star Lorenzen Wright died of a gunshot wound.

Wright's body was found Wednesday afternoon in a wooded area near Hacks Cross and Winchester in Memphis.

In a written statement released Thursday afternoon, Memphis police established a timeline of events from the time Wright was first reported missing until the time his body was located Wednesday.

Investigators said a family member of Wright filed a missing person's report with the Collierville Police Department on Thursday, July 22, after he was last seen the previous Sunday.

Through the course of their investigation, Collierville police discovered that a 911 call was placed from Wright's phone very early on the morning of July 19. 

The call, which was received by a Germantown 911 dispatcher, is believed to have been made from an area south of Poplar Pike and west of Hacks Cross Road.

Because of overlapping jurisdictions, Collierville police met Wednesday with Germantown police, the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, and the Memphis Police Department's Homicide Bureau to discuss the case. 

After that meeting, Collierville and Germantown police searched the area near to where the 911 call was placed and conducted interviews, while an MPD air unit and Shelby County K-9's dogs also searched.

Around 2:30 p.m., a Shelby County Emergency Services Search and Rescue located Wright's body off of Callis Cutoff between Hacks Cross Road and Germantown Road, authorities said.

Thursday, after police investigators cleared the crime scene, members of the media were allowed to move in for a closer look. Though barbed wire fencing lined the area, some of the barbed wire was cut and removed. 

Investigators said they didn't remove it.

Wright's body was found past the cut fence, approximately 100 yards into an open field.  The spot where Wright's body was found is less than eight miles from the home of his ex-wife, Sherra, and less than five miles from his mother's house.

Court documents show that Wright acknowledged to the FBI that in 2008 he sold two luxury vehicles, a Mercedes sedan and a Cadillac SUV, to Bobby Cole. The affidavits about the business deal don't show if Wright knew that Cole had been indicted in 2007 on drug distribution charges or if they knew each other.

Cole told the FBI he was connected to the organization run by Craig Petties, an accused drug kingpin charged with racketeering and conspiracy in six murders.

In 2008, Cole offered to turn over to Drug Enforcement Administration agents three vehicles he bought with drug money, including a 2007 Cadillac Escalade SUV and a 2008 Mercedes Benz S63 that had been registered to Wright.

Wright told agents he had sold two vehicles to Cole and he no longer owned them, although registration records listed the Cadillac in Wright's name and the Mercedes in one of Wright's business investments, Allwright Automotive LLC.

In federal court filings, Lorenzen Wright claimed ownership of the cars and said he didn't know the property was used in a crime. A federal judge entered a default judgment in favor of the government in March 2010 and the vehicles were forfeited and the case closed.

Reaction to Wright's death

Thursday, on the campus of the University of Memphis, where Wright held the distinction of being one of the most decorated players in school history, the loss of one of their own was particularly hard.  

"It's just kind of a sad, sad day for Tiger Nation, and for the people of Memphis to have something like that happen," said Jeremy Stenson at the Tiger Bookstore. "Seeing that it happened to an athlete makes you realize that it can happen to anybody."

University of Memphis Athletic Director R. C. Johnson issued a statement on behalf of the school saying in part, "The entire University of Memphis athletic family is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Lorenzen Wright...he is and will forever be a part of the fabric that is Tiger basketball."

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton echoed those sentiments, saying, "Lorenzen loved Memphis, and we are shocked and saddened by the news of his passing.  His talent and competitiveness on the basketball court were outstanding, and he will be remembered fondly as a good friend and teammate.  Our sympathies go out to all who knew him and loved him."

Barber offers new details on Wright's last days

At New Era barber shop on Malco Crossing, Lorenzen Wright is included in a mural of who's who in Memphis sports.

"Every time he's in town, he'll come up here and get a haircut," said Wright's barber, Antabio Brigance said.

Before Wright's body was discovered, Brigance said Wright had been into his shop on Monday, July 19.

"Just a cheerful, normal day," Brigance said.  "There wasn't no pressure on him or anything.  He looked real nice."

As more information is revealed, the timeline of Wright's final hours is becoming blurred.  Investigators said a 911 call came from Wright's phone in the early morning hours of July 19.  That would have been before his barber said he stopped in.

Brigance said police have asked him not to discuss the day he saw Wright, but he said it was between 4:30 and 5 in the afternoon.

"He's a personal friend of him," Brigance said.  "He has supported us through the years."

Wright was raising four of his six children with his ex-wife, Sherra Robinson Wright.  Neighbor Nate Walker said the children were being raised right.

"I can certainly understand how friends and family will be missing a great guy," Walker said.  "And his children are very, very respectful."

As Brigance grieved, he said his heart was with Wright's family.  He said he never dreamed the last moments he spent with Wright would be the last time he would see him alive.

>>Click here for additional statements and information about the death of Lorenzen Wright<<

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this report.

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