Man sentenced on lesser charges in NBA player's slaying

A Tennessee man serving life in prison after his first-degree murder conviction in the slaying of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright has been sentenced on lesser charges of conspiracy and attempted murder in the long-running case

ByADRIAN SAINZ Associated Press
July 8, 2022, 6:59 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Tennessee man serving life in prison after his first-degree murder conviction in the slaying of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright was sentenced Friday on lesser charges of conspiracy and attempted murder in the 12-year-old case.

Shelby County Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Billy Ray Turner to 25 years in prison for both the conspiracy charge and the attempted murder charge. Turner was convicted March 21 in the fatal shooting of Wright, a 6-foot, 11-inch center who played 13 seasons in the NBA before he retired after the 2008-2009 season.

Coffee sentenced Turner, 51, to life in prison on the day of his conviction. Turner already was serving a 16-year sentence for possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. Turner was found with two guns when he was arrested in 2017 in Wright’s killing and he pleaded guilty in 2019.

The judge decided that the 25-year-sentences will run concurrently, or at the same time. When added to the 16-year sentence for the gun charge, Turner essentially has been sentenced to life plus 41 years in prison, with the possibility of parole, Coffee said.

The slaying is one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Memphis history. Wright’s decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis on July 28, 2010. The 34-year-old father of six had been missing for days before his body was discovered.

During Turner's trial, prosecutors said Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, masterminded a plan to kill her ex-husband and recruited Turner and her cousin, Jimmie Martin, to help her.

Turner and Sherra Wright were indicted in December 2017, more than seven years after the killing. Sherra Wright entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July 2019 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Turner is a landscaper who knew Sherra Wright from church and, according to prosecutors, had a secret romantic relationship with her.

At the time of Wright’s slaying, Martin was facing charges of killing his girlfriend, and he said his cousin helped pay part of his legal fees. Martin was convicted and is currently serving prison time in that case.

Martin received immunity from prosecution in the Wright case. He testified that he went with Turner to kill Wright in Atlanta in a failed murder attempt. Martin also testified that he went with Turner to a Mississippi lake to dump the gun used in the killing.

A Memphis native, Lorenzen Wright played college basketball at the University of Memphis and spent time with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. At the end of the trial, Coffee called Wright “a sacred son” of Memphis.

During Friday's hearing, the judge cited Turner's past convictions for kidnapping, gun and drug charges as he added years to the life sentence.

“He is a dangerous offender," Coffee said. ”He had no hesitation committing this crime."

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