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

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday in the trial of the man charged with killing former NBA player Lorenzen Wright.

Billy Ray Turner says he is innocent. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy charges. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Turner was arrested and charged with Wright’s murder in 2017, seven years after Memphis police found Wright’s decomposing body in a field in southeast Memphis.

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

Prosecutors began by presenting the indictment against Turner to the jury.

Shelby County ADA Paul Hagerman played the 911 call made from Lorenzen Wright’s cell phone before he was killed.

“This is what it sounds like to kill a man,” Hagerman said to the jury.

Hagerman explained Billy Ray Turner and Sherra Wright’s relationship and told the jury Sherra could trust Turner. Hagerman said Sherra’s house was the last place Lorenzen was before his death. Hagerman told the jury one of the guns used in Wright’s murder was tossed in the bushes by Sherra’s house close to where the murder happened. He then presented the gun he said was used to kill Lorenzen Wright to the jury.

Hagerman told the jury Billy Ray Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin were all in Sherra’s kitchen together working up the plan to kill Lorenzen.

Lorenzen Wright’s family was inside the courtroom as opening statements continued.

Billy Ray Turner’s defense attorney John Keith Perry told the jury that it takes a person to take the facts and spin them to kill Lorenzen Wright.

Perry explained to the jury how he plans to prove Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin are responsible for killing Lorenzen Wright.

He said the messages between Jimmie and Sherra will prove Billy Turner’s innocence.

Opening statements concluded around noon, and Judge Lee Coffee called a lunch recess until 1:30 p.m.

Three witnesses took the stand for the prosecution Tuesday —Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, Sherra Wright’s cousin Claudia Robinson, and Detective Jesse Browning, an investigator with the Shelby County Multi-Agency Gang Unit.

Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, was the first witness to take the stand.

FOX13 was in the court when Marion fought to hold back tears after seeing a picture of her son’s decomposing body where detectives found him in 2010.

Marion testified about the details of the last time she saw her son alive in July 2010.

Sherra Wright’s first cousin Claudia Robinson was called as the second witness.

Robinson was the nanny for Wright’s kids at the time of Lorenzen’s murder.

Robinson testified that she witnessed a conversation between Sherra Wright, Jimmie Martin, and Billy Ray Turner about Lorenzen Wright putting a hit out on Sherra.

Robinson testified there were two conversations like that.

She said Sherra would always say it’s going to be either me or him.

When asked if Turner ever added anything to the conversation, Robinson said she never heard Turner having a part in the plot to kill Lorenzen during the “either me or him” conversation involving Sherra and Jimmie Martin. He was just present.

Robinson identified Billy Ray Turner as someone she saw at Sherra’s home several times. She said he was Sherra’s yardman.

Robinson said that after hearing those conversations she distanced herself from Sherra because she didn’t feel comfortable.

Turner’s attorney John Keith Perry cross-questioned Robinson about her knowledge of supposed ‘hush money’ to be given to her. Robinson was also questioned about the conversation she says happened between Sherra, Jimmie Martin, and Billy Ray Turner involving the “It’s either him or me” conversation.

Testimony was paused as the prosecution and defense had a sidebar with Judge Coffee.

When testimony resumed, Claudia Robinson said MPD detectives asked her to make calls to Sherra Wright during the investigation on several occasions. Robinson said she made the calls to protect herself. She said her cousin Sherra Wright threatened her life.

Robinson was dismissed and reminded not to talk about the case with anyone.

Detective Jesse Browning was the third witness. He is an investigator with the Shelby County Multi-Agency Gang Unit. Browning was one of the first officers to take the missing person report when Lorenzen Wright disappeared.

Det. Browning was asked to confirm locations involved in the case, including Lorenzen Wright’s condo, Sherra Wright’s house, Turner’s house, and where Lorenzen Wright’s remains were found. He also confirmed details about the 911 call made from Lorenzen Wright’s cell phone at 12:12 a.m. on July 18, 2010.

The 911 call was played for a second time Tuesday when it was entered into evidence.

Det. Browning said Sherra Wright never reported Lorenzen Wright missing. Lorenzen’s mother was the only one to make a report, and she did after nine or so days of not hearing from him.

Items that included spent bullet casings found at the scene near the body and bullets recovered from Lorenzen Wright’s body were entered into evidence and labeled as exhibit items.

After a short recess, Det. Browning continued his testimony. More items were entered into evidence, including a text sent from Sherra Wright to Turner on the day the 911 call was made from Lorenzen’s phone. A series of text messages from Sherra to Lorenzen Wright was also entered into evidence.

One of the text messages sent to Turner from Sherra Wright that was read in court said, “I’m going to need my commission, you owe me, boy.”

According to the evidence presented Sherra Wright sent that message 25 minutes before Lorenzen Wright’s 911 call the night of his murder.

Det. Browning was asked about contacting the FBI to search the lake in Mississippi where the firearm used to kill Wright was found in 2017. Jurors saw the gun again as it was entered into evidence.

Det. Browning was questioned about surveillance, a wiretap on Sherra’s phone. He said Sherra acted “distressed” when she heard the gun had been found. Browning said Sherra flew to Memphis after she learned about the gun. While in Memphis, Browning said Sherra used a third party to communicate by text message with Turner.

Det. Browning says Sherra became more distressed after she learned Turner had been arrested.

The prosecution has no more questions for Browning, so Judge Coffee decides to dismiss for the day.

More than 50 pieces of evidence were presented in court by the prosecuting attorneys.

Court will resume Wednesday at 10 a.m.

FOX13 will be inside the courtroom Wednesday morning when Billy Ray Turner’s trial continues and will bring you continuous coverage throughout the entire trial.

Stay with FOX13 News for the newest and latest information on this case.


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

FOX13′s Jeremy Pierre is covering the trial. He was in Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee’s courtroom Monday when jury selection began around noon.

A total of 15 jurors were picked for the case out of a potential jury pool of more than 75 people. Twelve of the 15 jurors will decide whether to find Turner guilty or acquit him. The jury will be made up of 8 women and 7 men. Seven are white and 8 are Black.

Witnesses should come later in the week.

The jury will be sequestered. Judge Coffee allowed the 15 people picked to serve on the jury to go home Monday night to pack a few things for what’s expected to be a nearly two-week trial.

“They are going to make sacrifices because they’re going to be sequestered at least for a week,” Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said. “It’s going to be a hard trial.”

Hagerman told the press Monday morning that we should expect to see and hear from Jimmie Martin during the trial. Martin is the cousin of Sherra Wright and a key witness in the Lorenzen Wright murder case.

It is unclear if Sherra Wright, Lorenzen Wright’s ex-wife who pleaded guilty to Facilitation of Murder in the First Degree and is currently serving time in prison, will testify in Turner’s trial.

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

Who is Billy Turner? Suspect accused in Lorenzen Wright murder 4/6/2018

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