TN v. TURNER: NBA Star Murder Trial

Posted at 11:06 AM, March 19, 2022 and last updated 2:52 PM, July 14, 2023

Memphis, Tenn. (Court TV) — Billy Ray Turner has been convicted in the murder of NBA star Lorenzen Wright.


A first-round 7th draft pick in 1996, Wright played 13 seasons in the NBA before retiring.


His body was discovered in the woods near a golf course a few a days after his mother reported him missing in July 2010. According to the medical examiner, he had been shot multiple times – suffering gunshots to the head and chest. His 6’11” frame so decomposed, he weighed 57 pounds at autopsy.

The mystery surrounding his death baffled investigators for years until a break in the case led to the 2017 arrest of Billy Ray Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright.

The next year, Sherra Wright pleaded guilty for her role in the murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Turner denied any involvement in Wright’s death.


DAY 6 – 3/21/22

DAY 5 – 3/19/22

  • Over the weekend, jurors heard testimony from an undercover officer who conducted surveillance on Sherra Wright and Billy Ray Turner on Nov. 12, 2017
  • The state rests
  • The defense calls Jennifer Bogan, a friend of Turner, who testifies she hosted a cookout July 17-18, 2010, which Turner attended
  • The defense rests, Turner declines to testify
  • The judge charges the jury, closing arguments will take place Monday, March 21
  • WATCH: 3/21/22 NBA Star Murder Trial: Day 5 

DAY 4 – 3/18/22

  • Martin returned to the witness stand on Friday for the second day to answer questions about the plot to kill the retired NBA star. Martin testified on Thursday that the plot was hatched over two conversations in Sherra Wright’s Collierville home that included the three (Martin, Turner and Sherra Wright) plus a pregnant woman later identified as Claudia Robinson, who testified Tuesday. The defense pointed out on Friday that Martin told police Turner was only present for one of those conversations — one of several discrepancies the defense tried to draw out between Martin’s testimony and statements he made in 2012 and 2017.
  • Prosecutors tried to corroborate Martin’s wide-ranging account through other witnesses called who testified Friday. One of them was Michael Gipson, Wright’s childhood friend and roommate in Atlanta. Gipson said he did not see the alleged hitmen enter their home in June 2010 for the first purported hit on Wright. But Gipson said he was prone to sleeping on the couch, that their carpet was red, and he was bald in 2010 – details that match Martin’s account of the night of the first alleged attempted hit. Investigators also found a pair of red-handled wire cutters in Turner’s car in 2018 that matched Martin’s description of the tool Turner allegedly used to remove a section of barbed wire fence from the crime scene covered in blood. Lt. Brian Beasley also testified to spend rounds found in the same car.
  • The jury also heard about Turner’s post-Miranda police statement in December 2017. He denied involvement in Wright’s death and minimized his relationship with Sherra Wright despite evidence suggesting otherwise.
  • The jury also heard about a meetup between Turner and Sherra Wright at a friend’s house that SW arranged using a friend’s phone.
  • WATCH: 3/18/22 NBA Star Murder Trial: Day 4 

DAY 3 – 3/17/22

  • After hearing about him since the start of the trial, jurors in Billy Ray Turner’s murder trial finally started to hear from Jimmie Martin himself Thursday as Tennessee prosecutors called the former sailor and aspiring rapper to the witness stand to describe his role in the alleged plot to kill retired NBA star Lorenzen Wright.
  • Martin took the stand after the jury heard hours of testimony on Thursday from Memphis Police Sgt. Dennis Evans about phone calls, texts and social media communications among Martin, Turner and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, the admitted mastermind of the plot to kill Wright
  • The jury heard from Evans about phone calls between Martin and Turner in the hours before Wright’s shooting death shortly after midnight on July 19, 2010. Prosecutors also introduced what they described as coded conversations between Martin and Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra, on Facebook messenger about the plan to kill Wright. Martin was in the midst of decoding those conversations when the trial recessed for the day Thursday.
  • In Tennessee, jurors are allowed to ask questions of witnesses if the judge allows it, and this jury is taking advantage of this unusual dispensation to fill in the blanks
  • WATCH: NBA Star Murder Trial: Day 3

DAY 2 – 3/16/22

  • Tennessee prosecutors tried to tighten the connection between defendant Billy Ray Martin and his accused coconspirators Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin in former NBA star Lorenzen Wright’s 2010 shooting death

  • Prosecutors introduced cell phone and cell tower records showing communications between the three before, during and after the early morning shooting on July 19, 2010 – including a text Sherra Wright sent to Turner 25 minutes before the shooting, when Lorenzen Wright called 911 to report the encounter: “Imma need my commission… Ren want u to bring your cards in the am before he fly out… u owe me boy!”

  • During cross of Memphis Det. Jesse Browning Wednesday morning, the defense tried to offer an innocuous explanation for the text by pointing out the Turner had a landscaping business. Browning agreed Sherra Wright could offer to pass on Turner’s business cards to her ex-husband, so he could share them with his Memphis contacts.
  • The jury also heard about a Facebook Messenger chat between Sherra Wright and Jimmie Martin in which prosecutors claim the cousins used coded language about a party to plan Wright’s death.
  • The jury also learned of potentially incriminating web searches conducted on Sherra Wright’s cell phone in December 2017 after authorities revealed a break in the seven-year cold case: the discovery of the 9mm handgun used to kill Wright in a lake in Mississippi. Investigators actually found the weapon in 2016, but they withheld the information as they surveilled Turner and Sherra Wright. Among them, the definition of “indictment” and “can a [weapon] have [prints] after seven years?”
  • All this came through the testimony of Sgt. Dennis Evans, Jr., an expert in digital forensics and cell phone records examination.
  • WATCH: 3/16/22 NBA Star Murder Trial: Day 2


DAY 1 – 3/15/22

  • The jury hears opening statements:
  • Jury hears sound of gunshots striking Lorenzen Wright on a 911 call that Wright placed before his death.
  • Jury sees photos of crime scene, including photos of Wright’s body, of bullet casings, and of a missing section of a barbed wire fence that coconspirator Jimmie Martin allegedly removed as part of the coverup because it had the suspects’ blood on it.
  • State calls three witnesses, starting with the emotional testimony of Lorenzen Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, who describes her last interaction with her son and how she knew something was wrong when he didn’t return her phone calls.
  • Claudia Robinson, the cousin of Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, testifies that Sherra Wright told Billy Turner that Lorenzen had a hit out on her and that “he needs to be gone.”
  • On cross, Robinson denies being part of the conspiracy and agrees that she never heard Turner agree to kill Lorenzen Wright or encourage Sherra Wright.
  • Memphis Police Det. Jesse Browning describes Sherra Wright’s text to Turner 25 minutes before Lorezen Wright’s death in which she said, “imma need my commission… you owe me, boy.”
  • Browning also describes how a tip from Jimmie Wright led to the murder weapon in a lake in Mississippi and shows the jury the .9mm handgun.
  • WATCH: 3/15/22 NBA Star Murder Trial: Day 1


This story was originally published March 15, 2022. Court TV field producer Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.