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The Sports Report: Ex-wife pleads guilty in Lorenzen Wright case

Lorenzen Wright
Lorenzen Wright
(John Hayes / Associated Press)

Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell and I want to pay tribute to Maggie Barnett, who passed away this week. She was an administrative assistant in sports. She was quirky and eccentric and seemed to walk into sports from out of a sitcom script, which meant she fit in to our department immediately. She had a heart of gold and she loved her dog. The world is a little less bright today without her.

Lorenzen Wright

The murder of former Clippers player Lorenzen Wright is a sad tale that took a turn Thursday when Wright’s ex-wife pleaded guilty to facilitating his murder. Nathan Fenno has the details:

“Almost nine years ago, search and rescue dogs found the bullet-riddled remains of former Clippers player Lorenzen Wright in a Memphis field.

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“The long-running search to solve the killing led to an unscheduled hearing Thursday at the Shelby County Criminal Court in Tennessee, where Wright’s ex-wife pleaded guilty to facilitating his murder.

“Sherra Wright, who had been scheduled for trial in September on a first-degree murder charge, received 30 years in state prison as part of a deal with prosecutors.

“Accounting for time already served, she will be eligible for parole in about eight years.

“When Judge Lee Coffee queried Wright about the deal with prosecutors, she said little beyond noting she was taking medicine for anxiety and depression. She also asked which rights she would lose as a result of the plea and described her legal team as “wonderful.”

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“It is the judgment of this court that you are guilty,” Coffee said in a live stream of the hearing.

“Wright, wearing an orange jail shirt and dark pants, showed no emotion after the judge’s words.

“A task force of federal marshals and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies arrested Wright in December 2017 as she drove her twin sons home from a high school basketball game. Wright, who had moved to Riverside County earlier that year, was extradited to Tennessee and charged with her ex-husband’s murder.

“Authorities in Tennessee also arrested and charged Billy Ray Turner, who served as a deacon at the Memphis-area church Wright once attended, with first-degree murder. Turner has pleaded not guilty and will go to trial in September….

“Lorenzen and Sherra separated in 2009 and divorced in 2010, beset by mounting debt and a tumultuous relationship. As part of the dissolution, he had to maintain a $1-million life insurance policy.

“Prosecutors cited the life insurance money as motivation for the killing….

“After the guilty plea Thursday, the judge invited Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, to address Sherra Wright. Only a few feet separated the women in the courtroom. Marion begged Sherra Wright to allow her six children to visit their grandparents.

“We love them, and we want to see them,” Marion said.

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Clippers

If you are into renderings of future sports arenas or remodeled stadiums, then this is the week for you. The Dodgers unveiled their $100-million renovation plan for Dodger Stadium earlier this week and on Thursday, the Clippers revealed their renderings for their proposed 18,500-seat arena in Inglewood.

As our Andrew Greif puts it, “As envisioned by the team, its 26-acre Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Complex would house the Clippers’ operations in their entirety, from corporate headquarters to the team’s training facility, according to renderings shared with The Times. The team currently practices in Playa Vista, has its business office in downtown Los Angeles and plays in Staples Center, the venue it has shared since 1999 with the rival Lakers and NHL’s Kings.

“Project backers say the arena complex will be entirely privately financed, use no public money and will require no additional infrastructure surrounding the site to be paid for by the city. Renderings call for the finished site to hold three parking garages, a sports medicine clinic, spaces for parks and educational facilities, restaurants and businesses and an indoor court available to the community. Outside, a giant LED screen would create a viewing area similar to “Jurassic Park” outside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.

“The site’s anchor is a 900,000-square-foot arena whose exterior would include solar panels and is designed to symbolize the diamond shapes in a basketball net.

“Fans would enter onto the arena’s main concourse with the Clippers’ court 30 feet below ground level. The design calls for upper and lower bowls with the exception of an undivided section of seats, located behind one basket, that would stretch from the floor level into the stadium’s highest rows. Team owner Steve Ballmer referred to it as a “wall of sound.” The owner sought inspiration from the volume of Oakland’s Oracle Arena and Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.

“The proposed complex would sit across the street from a stadium that will be the home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers beginning in 2020. It is also less than a mile from the Forum, whose New York-based owner, Madison Square Garden Co., remains engaged in a bitter legal fight with Ballmer over the land at the southeast corner of Century Boulevard and Prairie Avenue.”

Dodgers

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The Dodgers sent struggling catcher Austin Barnes to triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled catcher Will Smith. It was a move long overdue. In his last 21 games, Barnes is hitting .117/.182/.183. At some point “yeah, but look at his defense” does not become a great excuse. You can’t have gaping holes (counting the pitcher’s spot) at the bottom of the lineup forever. (By the way, over the same time frame, Kenta Maeda is hitting .375/.375/.375).

Barnes hasn’t hit for two seasons, and Smith was extremely impressive in his two short stints with the team earlier this season.By all accounts, Barnes worked hard on his hitting and there’s nothing bad you can say about his defense. It’s just one of those things. Hopefully he can straighten himself down in the minors.

The Dodgers also acquired first baseman Tyler White from the Houston Astros for minor-league pitcher Andre Scrubb. White, 28, hit .225 with three home runs in 71 games for the Astros this season. The Dodgers can’t send him to the minors, so they will have to make room for him on the roster, perhaps by putting Kiké Hernandez (sore left hand) or David Freese (knee tendinitis) on the injured list. In other words, this is not the trade everyone has been waiting for. The best-case scenario is he turns into the new Max Muncy or was acquired as prelude to another trade. The worst-case scenario is that he’s just Tyler White.

Sports poll

Six new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame were inducted over the weekend. Which of the following Dodgers do you think deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame? You can vote for as many as you like: Steve Garvey, Orel Hershiser, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe, Fernando Valenzuela, Maury Wills. Vote in our poll at https://poll.fm/10368688 or email me your choices at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Results will be revealed next week.

Your favorite sports moment

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Click here to tell me what it is and why, and I’ll start running them in future newsletters. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.

Odds and ends

Todd Gurley’s knee, revamped line among big questions as Rams open camp…. Chargers love having veteran Thomas Davis Sr. as part of family…. Angels’ Andrew Heaney implements dog therapy program at Children’s Hospital…. Beach volleyball’s top players to square off in Hermosa Beach Open…. Chargers’ Russell Okung survived ‘near-death’ experience after blood clot in lung…. Boxer Hugo Santillan dies from injuries sustained in the ring…. LAFC’s Carlos Vela chosen as MLS All-Star team captain….

Other newsletters

We also have other newsletters you can subscribe to for free. They are emailed to you and we don’t sell your name to other companies, so no spam from us. They are:

Our Dodgers newsletter, written by me. Subscribe here.

Lakers newsletter, written by Tania Ganguli. Subscribe here.

Horse racing newsletter, written by John Cherwa. Subscribe here.

Soccer newsletter, written by Kevin Baxter. Subscribe here.

Today’s local major sports schedule

Dodgers at Washington, 4 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Baltimore at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Atlanta United FC at LAFC, ESPN, 710 ESPN

Born on this date

1920: NFL player Bob Waterfield

1922: Baseball player Hoyt Wilhelm

1954: Tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis

1956: Figure skater Dorothy Hamill

1957: Wrestler Jeff Blatnick

1962: Former Dodger Jody Reed

1975: NBA player Joe Smith

And finally

Dorothy Hamill’s short program at the 1976 Olympics. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email us here. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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