(NEW YORK) -- For over a decade, Deborah Marion has been fighting for answers in the murder of her son, former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, who was found shot in 2010.
“With Lorenzen, I’d be talking to his picture and sometimes his picture could look at me a certain way like it’s really him… He was a momma’s boy. Simple as that," she said. "He would still be a momma’s boy if he was here now."
At the time of his death, Wright had retired from the league in 2009 where he had earned an estimated $55 million over the course of 13 seasons in the NBA.
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Wright was missing for nine days before his remains were found in a wooded area off a desolate road in southeast Memphis, Tennessee that he used to take as a shortcut to his mother’s house. His body had gunshot wounds.
Marion said she knew something was wrong when Wright didn’t show up to his sister’s baby shower.
“He was supposed to have been coming to the baby shower. I kept calling him all day and he didn't answer the phone,” said Marion.
At the time, Sherra Wright Robinson claimed to investigators that Wright was connected to drugs. She claimed that she had last seen Wright drive off with an unknown man carrying a box of drugs.
Investigators looked into Wright Robinson’s claims, but Wright was never implicated in any criminal activity. The criminal case turned cold for the next seven years.
Marion remained a driving force behind the investigation and said she would call the police station everyday to ask if they had found any new information.
“I knew God was on my side,” Marion said. “I wasn't gonna never get tired until I die 'cause somebody had to pay for killing my child.”
Five years after the murder, Wright Robinson published a novel in 2015 titled Mr. Tell Me Anything. The supposedly fictitious story centered around the life of a woman who marries an abusive and unfaithful basketball player. She later claimed in an interview that the book was based on her real life.
Wright’s supporters allege the book is fiction.
“I just don’t believe it. I think that is purely fiction,” said Bill Adkins, a close friend of Wright.
In 2017, a huge break came in the investigation. One of the guns used to kill Wright was found in a lake about 45 minutes away from Wright’s former home.
In court, prosecutors said Wright Robinson's cousin, Jimmie Martin, started talking to investigators about Wright’s murder while awaiting sentencing in an unrelated murder case that had occurred three years prior to Wright’s death.
Martin had told prosecutors that he had participated in a failed plan to kill Wright with Wright Robinson and another man named Billy Ray Turner, who was a landscaper and attended the same church as Wright Robinson.
According to prosecutors, Martin claimed that after Wright was murdered, Wright Robinson and Turner confessed to him that they did it and needed his help in disposing the evidence, which is how he knew the location of the murder weapon.
Martin has not been charged in connection with Wright’s death.
Investigators began monitoring Wright Robinson’s and Turner’s cell phones and alleged that they had learned incriminating information. Both Wright Robinson and Turner were arrested and charged in December 2017.
Turner pleaded not guilty on first-degree murder charges.
Wright Robinson initially pleaded not guilty but later agreed to a plea deal on July 25, 2019, and pleaded guilty to the facilitation of first-degree murder. In exchange, prosecutors lessened her sentence to 30 years in prison. She will be eligible for parole as early as May 2027.
“She knows she was fittin' to go down, down, down. Way down. She wasn't gonna get no few years. She was gonna get some lifetime [if the case went to trial],” said Marion.
Wright Robinson’s plea deal was announced in court and the judge gave Marion the chance to address her son’s ex-wife. Instead of expressing outrage, Marion focused on moving forward with her six grandchildren who are said to be standing by their mother.
“Ms. Sherra, I want to thank you for giving me my grandchildren, that’s what I want to thank you for,” she said in court. “But I want you to call them, [and say], 'No it’s OK to talk to grandma, grandma still loves you.' That’s all I want is my grandkids.”
Turner, whose trial was delayed two years, in part because of the global pandemic, finally faced his day in court in March of 2022.
Turner chose not to testify.
After one week of testimony, the jury deliberated for a little over two hours, finding Turner guilty on all three counts: first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Under Tennessee Law, the judge immediately sentenced Turner to life in prison. Marion, who was in the courtroom that day, said that after 12 years, she felt like “she can sleep now. All night now.”
“Lorenzen’s spirit been with me the whole time,” she said. “He can lay down like everybody else and just rest. I say ‘Get you some rest baby. We got this. They gone.’”