Jury selection starts in slaying of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright

Defendant Billy Ray Turner
Billy Ray Turner, pictured in 2018, has pleaded not guilty in the 2010 slaying of former basketball player Lorenzen Wright in Memphis, Tenn.
(Mark Weber / Associated Press)

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a man charged with killing former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, whose body was found in a swampy field nearly 12 years ago in Memphis, Tenn.

Billy Ray Turner has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy, and he could face life in prison if convicted.

Opening statements in Turner’s trial could finally reveal key details about Wright’s slaying, one of the most highly publicized homicide cases in Memphis history. His decomposing body was found with bullet wounds in east Memphis on July 28, 2010. Wright, 34, had been missing for 10 days before his body was discovered.

A Memphis native, the 6-foot, 11-inch Wright played 13 seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and four other NBA teams after playing college basketball at the University of Memphis. He was retired from the league when he was killed.


Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, were charged in December 2017 in the killing. She entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July 2019, and Judge Lee Coffee sentenced her to 30 years in prison.

Turner, a felon, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for possessing two guns at the time of his 2017 arrest.

About two months before Turner and Sherra Wright were charged, a separate gun was found in a north Mississippi lake. Police say it was the weapon used in Wright’s killing.

Witnesses said Sherra Wright masterminded a plan to have two men kill her ex-husband at his home in Atlanta, but that attempt failed, according to an affidavit.

She and Turner then conspired to kill him in Memphis, authorities have said. Turner, a landscaper in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, had attended the same church as Sherra Wright.

A witness, Jimmie Martin, told authorities about the Atlanta plot and that he helped Turner and Sherra Wright clean the crime scene, authorities said in the affidavit. Martin was convicted of murder in a separate case and could testify during the trial.

Wright received $1 million from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy, and she settled a court dispute in 2014 over how she spent the insurance money meant to benefit their six children, the Memphis Commercial Appeal has reported.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman said the trial is expected to take a week to 10 days.

“I imagine it will be a long, hard trial,” he said.

The jury will be sequestered, and potential jurors will be asked if they had followed the case in the media, Hagerman said.