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

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Wednesday was the second day of testimony in the trial of the man charged with killing former Memphis Tigers star and 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’s trial began with jury selection Monday, March 14, more than a decade after Wright’s death.

Tuesday saw opening statements from the prosecution and defense followed by testimony from Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, Sherra Wright’s cousin Claudia Robinson, and Det. Jesse Browning.

Phone calls and text messages were the centers of attention during testimony in Billy Ray Turner’s trial on Wednesday. Expert witnesses took the stand to testify about the murder weapon, Wright’s autopsy, and communications between Turner and Sherra Wright.

Browning returned to the stand Wednesday morning for cross-examination by the defense after ending the first day of testimony detailing text messages between Sherra Wright and Billy Turner.

One text message sent to Billy Ray Turner from Sherra Wright read, “I’m going to need my compensation, you owe me, boy.”

When cross-examination by the defense began Wednesday, Turner’s attorney argued that Turner was Sherra’s “yardman.” He pointed out that the text did not specify what the compensation was for.

Turner’s attorneys basically pointed to that text not putting his client in any plot to kill Lorenzen Wright.

The text Sherra sent to Turner about compensation, according to evidence, was sent 25 minutes before Lorenzen Wright’s 911 call. Evidence also shows Sherra sent a text to Lorenzen before his murder.

Thirteen pages of text messages and three pages of Facebook messages between Sherra Wright and Billy Turner and Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin were entered into evidence.

The detective testified Billy Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin participated in phone calls to each other in the days leading up to Lorenzen Wright’s murder.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Cervinia Braswell took the stand as the prosecution’s fourth witness.

She testified as an expert witness about the forensic findings regarding the murder weapon police found in a lake in Walnut, Mississippi.

While holding the murder weapon in her hands, Braswell explained to the jury how she cleaned the gun to identify it as the gun used to kill Lorenzen Wright.

When Braswell’s testimony wrapped up, Judge Coffee called for the first recess of the day.

Shelby County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marco Ross was the fifth person called to testify.

Ross was in charge of the autopsy. He called the autopsy unusual. Ross said it was unusual because there was so much decomposition to the body, which he said was expected as Wright’s body was out for several days in the elements of the Memphis July heat.

Dr. Ross described many photos of Wright’s body that showed the decomposer, a close-up of the head/skull area, skull after tissue/skin was removed, the left side of the skull, right side of the skull where a possible exit wound was found, the chest cavity that showed decomposed tissue with possible bullet fragments, bullet fragments from the right arm, bullets that were taken from the chest of the body, and bullet fragments from the head.

Dr. Ross said there were defects found on the body from entrance and exit wounds from bullets, fractured bones, etc.

The doctor said the bullets in the chest could be seen on an x-ray in the chest cavity.

Dr. Ross said that Wright’s manner of death was considered a homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds.

After a lunch break, MPD Sgt. Dennis Evans Jr. was called to testify. His testimony focused on communications between Billy Ray Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin.

Evans is certified in dealing with cell phone records and related police surveillance. He testified about calls between Turner, Sherra, and Martin.

Evans began by talking about the number of calls and the cell phone towers involved. He talked about how cell phone towers are used to track locations.

Investigators collected one month of phone records spanning from before and after Lorenzen Wright’s murder. Evans broke down the incoming and outgoing calls between Martin, Sherra Wright, and Turner. Maps were used to show where calls were made from their phones the night of Lorenzen Wright’s murder.

Just after 3 p.m., Judge Coffee stopped testimony, sent the jury out of the courtroom, and asked Evans to step down from the stand.

When everyone returned a short time later, we learned that some slides being shown during testimony were missing from the jurors’ packets. Those slides were provided during the break.

An overlay showed cell phone mapping of Lorenzen Wright’s 911 call and Billy Turner’s calls the night of Wright’s murder. According to Sgt. Evans, the calls to and from Turner’s phone (in the purple) came two minutes after Wright’s 911 call (in the light green). Basically, both Lorenzen Wright’s and Turner’s cell phones were in the same coverage area the night of Wright’s murder, according to MPD Sgt. Evans’ testimony.

Evans said the phones were pinged to towers in the same area at the time before and after the murder.

Sgt. Evans also analyzed phone messages sent between Sherra Wright and Turner.

Sherra Wright’s message to Turner about “the commission” was sent the night of Lorenzen Wright’s murder. According to Det. Evans, the message was deleted from Sherra’s phone but was able to be recovered using law enforcement software.

He testified Sherra Wright did a lot of searching on the internet after police found the murder weapon in 2017. The searches included wanting to know how long fingerprints would last on a gun in the water and if fingerprints last after seven years.

She also made repeated searches for news about Turner’s arrest and indictment.

The internet searches are among a host of other text and Facebook messages between Sherra Wright, Jimmie Martin, and Billy Ray Turner.

The prosecution wrapped up Sgt. Evans’ testimony just after 4 p.m.

Judge Coffee decided to adjourn for the day because he wants the defense to have all the time they need to cross-question Sgt. Evans.

Court will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

FOX13 will be back inside the courtroom Thursday as Billy Ray Turner’s trial continues and we will bring you continuous coverage throughout the entire trial.

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Turner’s trial began with jury selection Monday, March 14, more than a decade after Wright’s death.

During the prosecutor’s opening statements on Tuesday, jurors heard the 911 call from Lorenzen Wright’s cell phone. Wright’s call reached the police department in Germantown, and the pop of gunshots could be heard over the line.

Shelby County ADA Paul Hagerman told the jury Billy Ray Turner, Sherra Wright, and Jimmie Martin conspired to kill Lorenzen Wright.

Turner’s defense attorney John Keith Perry explained to the jury how he plans to prove Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin are responsible for killing Lorenzen Wright. He said messages between Martin and Sherra will prove Turner’s innocence.

Wright’s family was inside the courtroom for opening statements. Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, was the first witness to take the stand. She testified about the details of the last time she saw her son alive in July 2010.

Sherra Wright’s first cousin Claudia Robinson was the second witness. Robinson said she heard Sherra say, “It’s either me or him,” referring to Lorenzen in a conversation where Turner was present.

Robinson mentioned seeing Sherra, Jimmie Martin, and Billy Ray Turner at Sherra’s home. She 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 threatened her life.

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.

Browning testified as more than 50 pieces of evidence were presented in court by the prosecuting attorneys. The items included spent bullet casings found at the scene near the body and bullets recovered from Lorenzen Wright’s body. A text sent from Sherra Wright to Turner on the day the 911 call was made from Lorenzen’s phone was entered into evidence, as well as a series of text messages from Sherra to Lorenzen.

The defense will get to cross-question Browning.

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

The trial is expected to take a week to 10 days. The jury is sequestered.

Day two of testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Lorenzen Wright played two seasons for the Memphis Tigers in the mid-1990s before turning pro. He was the 7th overall pick in the 1996 draft. Lorenzen played for several teams in his NBA career, including the Memphis Grizzlies from 2001-2006.

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

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LORENZEN WRIGHT MURDER: Everything we learned from Day 1 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

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