MEMPHIS (AP) — A former Navy sailor and convicted killer testified Thursday that Lorenzen Wright’s ex-wife asked him and another man to kill the former NBA player nearly 12 years ago in Atlanta.
Jimmie Martin testified in the trial of Billy Ray Turner, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the death of Wright.
Wright’s slaying is one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Memphis history.
A Memphis native and a 6-foot, 11-inch center who played for five teams over 13 seasons, Wright also played college basketball at the University of Memphis and was well-liked for his charity work in his hometown.
Wright’s decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis on July 28, 2010 — nine days after he placed a gunshot-ridden 911 call and several days after the 34-year-old father of six was reporting missing.
Prosecutors allege Turner and Martin were recruited by Lorenzen Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, to kill the retired NBA player in Atlanta, then Memphis. At the time, Martin was facing charges of killing his girlfriend. Martin was convicted and is currently serving prison time in that case. He has received immunity from prosecution in the Wright case.
Turner and Sherra Wright were indicted in 2017. She entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July 2019 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Sherra Wright had helped pay for a lawyer for Martin — her cousin — to represent him in his girlfriend’s slaying, Martin said.
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Martin said he served in the Navy for eight years and enjoyed producing rap music while living in Batesville, Mississippi. Martin said he met with Sherra Wright and Turner in May 2010 at her home in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, where “a ploy to kill Lorenzen Wright” was first discussed.
Martin said he thought Sherra Wright was “going through some things,” and he told her “this is not the business you want to be in.” But they still participated in a brainstorming session to discuss ways to “perform the act,” Martin said.
“What act are we talking about?” prosecutor Paul Hagerman asked Martin.
“The murder of Lorenzen,” Martin said.
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At a later date, Sherra Wright asked Martin to go to Atlanta to kill her ex-husband at his condominium there, with the understanding he would get paid for it. She gave him a car with three guns, money and marijuana in the trunk, he testified.
Martin told Sherra Wright that he went to Atlanta but couldn’t find Lorenzen Wright. But, in reality, Martin never even traveled there, he said.
“She got upset,” Martin told the prosecutor. Martin then added: “She knew I was lying.”
Sherra Wright later told Martin to return to Atlanta, this time with Turner, according to Martin. Sherra Wright had told him that she recently had visited the condo and had left a window open, Martin testified.
Armed with handguns, Turner and Martin went to the Atlanta condo, entered through the open window at night, and found someone sleeping on the couch in the living room — but it was not Lorenzen Wright.
Turner and Martin returned home without killing Lorenzen Wright. Martin said he was relieved that he didn’t have to shoot anyone that night.
“On the ride home, the only conversation I believe we had was about how this is getting too ridiculous ... this plot that Sherra had hatched,” Martin said.
Martin testified that he and Sherra Wright spoke in code in text and Facebook messages about their plans, such as using the term “party” in relation to the killing, Martin said.
In his opening statement, defense attorney John Keith Perry questioned Martin’s credibility, saying the information he gave investigators about Wright’s killing was a farce and full of lies. He will cross-examine Martin on Friday.
A motive for the slaying was not immediately clear, though Hagerman said in his opening statement that the killers were driven by jealousy and greed. Hagerman also mentioned $2 million, though it was not immediately clear what that meant.
Sherra Wright did receive $1 million from her ex-husband’s life insurance policy, and settled a court dispute in 2014 over how she spent the insurance money meant to benefit their six children, The Commercial Appeal has reported.
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