LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Billy Ray Turner found guilty on all charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A jury has found Billy Ray Turner guilty on all charges in the murder of NBA star Lorenzen Wright.

The jury deliberated for about two hours before finding Turner guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy in Wright’s death.

Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Turner to life in prison for the murder conviction. He will be sentenced for the other charges at a later date.

Victim Lorenzen Wright was a beloved Memphian and a Booker T Washington graduate who played basketball for two years at Memphis State before joining the NBA. He also briefly played for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Wright was last seen on July 18, 2010. A Germantown dispatcher answered a 911 call from the basketball star’s cell phone the next day. The dispatcher heard 11 gunshots ring out.

Nine days later, Memphis police found Wright’s decomposing body in a field in southeast Memphis.

Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright-Robinson were arrested and charged with Wright’s murder in 2017. In 2019, Wright-Robinson pleaded guilty to Facilitation of Murder in the First Degree and is currently serving time in prison.

This verdict came as no surprise to Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion.

For 12 years, she has said she knew her ex-daughter-in-law Sherra Wright played a part in the murder of her son.

Even with no witness to put Billy Ray Turner at the scene of Lorenzen Wright’s murder, the prosecution’s evidence was enough to help the jury with their decision.

“You fool. How you let a woman mess your life up? She tricked you like she was going to marry you and married two other guys and you were neither one of them,” Marion said of Turner following the verdict.

Throughout the seven-day trial, seven witnesses took the stand. Most played roles in the investigation, gathering specific evidence showing how Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin communicated about the plot to kill Lorenzen Wright.

The star witness of the trial, Jimmie Martin, testified how he and Turner took a trip to Atlanta and planned to kill Lorenzen in his condo.

“Sherra is no good for nothing. He didn’t do it for himself. He would’ve did it for nothing other than some pennies Sherra would’ve given him,” Marion said when asked how Martin describing going to Atlanta to kill Lorenzen made her feel.

Martin testified he wasn’t there to witness the murder of Lorenzen the night he was killed but said he heard the story of how it was done from Sherra.

“You heard how they described your son running through that rural area like a deer?” Marion was asked.

“They were not lying. He run like that. That’s how I know he saw him. Because my son could actually run like a deer,” she said.

Even without a witness to put Turner as one of the gunmen who killed Lorenzen, prosecutors presented key evidence of Turner’s cell phone being in the same area as Lorenzen the night he made a 911 call.

Records also show Turner made calls to Martin just two minutes after the 911 call.

“It was important for a couple of reasons. It was important to show Billy Turner’s phone was not at home the night he said it was supposed to be at home. It was on the move during a critical time period,” Shelby County ADA Paul Hagerman said during a news conference after the verdict.

Lorenzen’s mother, Deborah Marion had more to say after the verdict. She didn’t just talk about Billy Turner. She has some words for Sherra Wright as well.

“That’s what it was about — money. Y’all need to go talk to the ex-wife. She the only one who is going to benefit,” Marion said.

“You have to know Sherra. She’s one in a million. She’ll tell you her shirt is orange when you know it’s purple. Then you start to thinking, is it orange? because she would have convinced you.”

Marion then spoke more about the prosecution’s star witness, Jimmie Martin.

When asked if more people should be in prison for her son’s murder, Marion said, “Jimmy. That’s it.”

When asked if she thought he should have faced charges, Marion said, “Yes. He saw him jumping like a deer.”

Marion said she believes Jimmie was at the murder scene.

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CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Court was back in session Monday for the man accused of killing Lorenzen Wright back in 2010.

Both the prosecution and defense started their closing arguments in the case before the jury went into deliberations.

Austin Schofield, part of the prosecution, described the state’s stance on the case against Billy Ray Turner.

He continued to talk about the problems with conspiracy and how you can’t go to Home Depot to find a murderer. The state described the elements of the crime, how the state has proven Billy Ray Turner is “guilty” and how the case was built.

Scofield explained the problem with conspiracies. Someone always tells and before Jimmie Martin came forward in 2012, the murder case of Lorenzen Wright was ‘dead in the water.’ It was a cold case. Another problem with conspiracies, Scofield said, is there isn’t a hitman hotline, you find people to help you. The state said that Sherra Wright got her cousin, who was indebted to her, and a man she often saw, which is Turner, the state said, to help her.

Scofield said that in Jimmie Martin’s testimony that stayed consistent during his meetings with police was Billy Ray Turner and Sherra Wright were involved, there’s a murder plot in Atlanta that was botched, and the gun found in the lake.

The state also discussed the many texts and Facebook messages between Turner and Sherra Wright, the “job” she hired him to do and how she sent “coded” messages within an hour before Lorenzen Wright was murdered.

The state showed many calls exchanged between Jimmie Martin and Billy Ray Turner the night of July 18, 2010, and the early morning hours of July 19, 2010. The pair allegedly did not know one another.

Scofield told the jury that Martin’s statements were corroborated through Claudia Robinson’s testimony. Robinson is Sherra Wright’s cousin and her nanny. Robinson told the court she saw Martin, Turner and Sherra talking about the murder of Wright at Sherra’s house.

Scofield explained calls made from and to Turner’s phone the night of the murder.

Scofield reminded the jury that the FBI found the gun Jimmie Martin said was in the Walnut, Miss. lake in 2012 and in 2017, the ammunition that was found in Turner’s car.

The state also reiterated there were several calls made between people who claimed they did not know one another.

Jimmie Martin told the court under oath and in writing that he wasn’t involved in killing Lorenzen Wright. The state also said that Billy Ray Turner was sexually involved with Sherra Wright and spoke to her about 186 times in one month, which is about six times a day. He also couldn’t explain why his car was at Sherra’s house the morning Lorenzen Wright was killed.

The state said that Turner told police he said he was meeting family in Atlanta but can’t remember who. Turner was in Atlanta while Jimmie Martin said he was in Atlanta, which Scofield said was a coincidence and there were more “coincidences” in this crime.

The defense began presenting its closing arguments close to noon on Monday.

Defense Attorney John Perry explained how no one ever asked Turner about the “partner” he had during the alleged crime.

Perry tried to prove to the jury the credibility of various statements and testimonies from the state’s key witness, Jimmie Martin. Perry alleged that the testimonies from Martin and Robinson said that Turner never agreed to anything in this crime.

Perry told the jury to look at cell phone records in the days leading up to the murder. The defense said Sherra Wright asked Billy Ray Turner to loan Jimmie Martin his car days before the murder, which would explain why the two had communications about it.

Perry claimed to the court that you have a word of mouth of what Turner and Sherra Wright reportedly told Jimmie Martin a few days after the murder.

The defense then asked: “Do you really think someone who was with their church group, eating cake and ice cream, would just a few hours later kill someone?”

The defense took less than an hour for their closing arguments.

It was then that ADA Paul Hagerman started the state’s rebuttals to the defense.

Hagerman told the jury to focus on the facts presented during testimony and pick out details. Details that weren’t said or presented during the trial, plus notes of the conflicting date in the defense’s closing argument compared to what was said during the trial.

Hagerman also said there was a co-conspirator who has spoken with investigators more than 20 times over the years, and he focuses on the “Three C’s” which is consistency, corroboration, and contract. He continued that the defense said how Martin entered a contract that wouldn’t allow him to be prosecuted. Hagerman said he understands that they are all lawyers and that the contract requires the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ in his interviews.

The state then said that Jimmie Martin knows if he does not tell the truth, all the testimony would become admissible, and he can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The state asked the jury to think of all the consistencies that Martin told over the years.

Hagerman continued with the phone records and the locations of Turner the night of the murder from cell phone records are the consistencies, as well. The defense for Turner would like people to believe that Turner would have to be framed and all these witnesses, who have testified in court, would have to be in on it. The state said that was nonsense.

The state went back to phone call records 25 minutes before the murder. The records are from Sherra Wright and claims Turner knew what was about to happen. He claims Sherra Wright’s texts were not innocent but codes for the murder.

Hagerman finished his rebuttal to the defense around 1:30 p.m.

The jury began deliberations at that time and the judge called for recess until 3 p.m.

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Photos from inside the courtroom as trial continues

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Jury selected, trial to begin Tuesday morning

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from Day 1 of testimony

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from Day 2 of testimony

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from Day 3 of testimony

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from day 4 of testimony

LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from day 5 of testimony

Timeline from Lorenzen’s murder to Turner and Wright’s arrests

This is a murder investigation FOX13 has followed from the very beginning.

Victim Lorenzen Wright was a beloved Memphian and a Booker T Washington graduate who played basketball for two years at The University of Memphis before joining the NBA. He also played five seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Wright was last seen on July 18, 2010. A Germantown dispatcher answered a 911 call from the basketball star’s cell phone the next day. The dispatcher heard 11 gunshots ring out.

The dispatcher didn’t tell her supervisor about the call until 8 days later.

The very next day, Memphis police found Wright’s decomposing body in a field in southeast Memphis.

It took investigators another seven years to find the gun used to kill Wright. In November 2017, FOX13 reported the gun was found in a lake in Tippah County, Mississippi. That’s over 88 miles from where his body was found.

A month later, police made two arrests in the case: Billy Ray Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright.

Gun used in killing found in Mississippi lake, police say 12/5/2017

Who is Billy Ray Turner?

WATCH: Breakdown of the chain of events that led to Billy Turner’s arrest

Turner lived in a quiet neighborhood, on a dead-end street in Raleigh.

Three sources told FOX13 he worked at the Wright home and did yard work.

Turner was 46 years old when he was arrested on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, and charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the Lorenzen Wright case.

According to the TBI, Turner was arrested and convicted of violent crimes back in the 1990′s.

Collierville police arrested Turner for aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping back in 1992. During the same year, police arrested him for selling cocaine and he was sentenced to four years in prison.

In 1996, police in Collierville arrested him for criminal trespass. Fifteen years later, police picked him up on minor traffic violations.

Turner has openly proclaimed his Christian faith on social media. FOX13 discovered Turner was a deacon at Mount Olive Number One Baptist Church, a church attended by Lorenzen Wright and his ex-wife.

The connection between Lorenzen Wright and alleged killer Billy Turner 12/6/2017

Building the Case

The seven-year investigation into Lorenzen Wright’s murder was one of the Memphis Police Department’s most high-profile unsolved cases.

Almost a month after the gun believed to have been used in Wright’s murder was found in a Mississippi lake, Turner was charged with first-degree murder on December 5, 2017. Sherra Wright was arrested in California in connection with the murder ten days later on December 15, 2017. She was originally indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, criminal attempted first-degree murder, and first-degree murder.

In April of 2018, indictment documents detailed the allegations against Sherra and Turner. The indictment alleges they tried to kill Wright multiple times. Sherra’s bond was set at $20M. Turner was given a $15M bond.

During Turner’s hearing, the public learned bombshell information regarding the alleged murder plot. A statement provided by an informant, Jimmie Martin, was read. Martin was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend in 2012 and was serving 20 years in prison. He is also Sherra Wright’s cousin.

Martin claimed to be the third co-conspirator in the murder. Prosecutors said that Martin flipped on Sherra and Turner and told homicide detectives he had information related to Lorenzen’s killing. In the statement, Martin detailed the alleged murder plot -- including a failed attempt in Atlanta, how Sherra got Lorenzen back to Memphis, clean-up of the crime scene and more.

In May of 2019, it was decided that Sherra and Turner would face a jury of their peers in Shelby County.

In July of 2019, Sherra took a deal and pleaded guilty to Facilitation of Murder in the First Degree and is serving up to a 30-year sentence.

It is unknown if she will be called as a witness in Turner’s case.

Initially, Turner’s trial date was set for September 2019. It was reset so his attorney could look over new evidence.

The new trial date was slated for October 2020 but did not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional Coverage:

Lorenzen’s mom visits lake where gun was found 12/6/2017

‘How could you have murdered my son?’ Lorenzen Wright’s mom berates murder suspect in court 12/7/2017

Lorenzen Wright’s ex-wife Sherra charged with his murder 12/22/2017

Sherra Wright and Billy Turner tried to kill Lorenzen multiple times, documents say 4/6/2018

Detectives seize Turner’s old car, believe it was used the night of the murder 5/6/2018

Sherra Wright’s bond set at $20 million 5/20/2018

Sherra Wright’s cousin details murder plot in bombshell statement, $15M bond for Turner 5/12/2018

Sherra Wright’s attorneys removed from case, say they can no longer represent her 6/11/2018

The reason why Sherra Wright was wearing red in court 6/11/2018

Tension between Lorenzen’s mother and Sherra Wright continues as trial date is set 11/29/2018

Judge denies motion to suppress wiretap in Lorenzen Wright murder case 5/30/2019

Trial location won’t be moved for Lorenzen Wright murder trial 5/30/2019

Sherra Wright pleads guilty, sentenced 30 years for her role in murder of Lorenzen Wright 7/25/2019

Memphis high school coach remembers NBA star Lorenzen Wright 7/27/2019

The wait continues for Billy Ray Turner to go to trial 1/15/2020

Sherra Wright pleads guilty for her role in Lorenzen Wright’s murder 1 year ago today 7/25/2020

COVID-19 puts Lorenzen Wright’s mother’s pursuit of justice on hold 8/12/2020

Lorenzen Wright’s mother plans to be at parole hearings 8/14/2020

Billy Ray Turner, man accused of killing Lorenzen Wright, returns to court; trial set to begin Jan. 2022 6/2/2021

New drama involving murder of Lorenzen Wright as twin sons speak out for first time 7/14/2021