Lorenzen Wright's ex-wife was threatened at her home by three men who were carrying guns and looking for the former NBA player about six weeks before he was shot to death, the woman's attorney said Friday.
Sherra Wright warned her ex-husband, the father of her children, about the visit by men dressed in sport coats with weapons tucked in their waistbands, lawyer Gail Mathes said. But she was frightened by their threats and didn't tell authorities about it until Monday, when she alerted police in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, near her home.
"She was told that if she said anything she would be killed, or her children," Mathes said. "Mrs. Wright was terrified."
The body of the 34-year-old athlete was found in woods in Memphis on Wednesday, six days after his family reported him missing. He was last seen around midnight July 18, when he stayed over at his ex-wife's house.
Sherra Wright told officers he left in the middle of the night with an unidentified person. Police records indicate Wright was probably carrying a large amount of cash when he disappeared.
An investigation is now under way by police in nearby Germantown, another Memphis suburb, about how a 911 call from Wright's phone early on July 19 was handled.
Autopsy results haven't been released, so it's not clear when Wright died or how many times he was shot. Police said the medical examiner had to use dental records to establish a positive identity, indicating the body might have been in the woods for some time before it was found by a police search team.
Memphis police are leading the homicide investigation and won't discuss a motive or if they have suspects. Memphis police Lt. Alan Ruhl said Friday that the department isn't discussing details of the case because the investigation is ongoing.
Rodney Bright, Germantown's deputy police chief, said department officials did not know about the 911 call until Tuesday, eight days after it was received by a dispatcher in the early morning hours of July 19.
Bright said Friday he can't discuss what was said on the call, which has been turned over to Memphis police. They also won't talk about the call.
The Commercial Appeal newspaper, which first reported the call, said the dispatcher heard a garbled male voice utter an expletive and then heard at least 10 gunshots. The call went dead and no one answered when the dispatcher called back, the newspaper reported.
Police said area law enforcement agencies didn't meet until Wednesday to discuss the case. Investigators were able to locate the source of the call and a few hours after that meeting, officers found Wright's body nearby.
Police in Collierville had taken the July 22 missing person report. Before Wright was found dead, they had repeatedly said they didn't suspect foul play.
Wright's friends have questioned why police didn't act with more urgency. Mathes said Germantown police were negligent in failing to report the call to other law enforcement in the area, and the delay has hurt the homicide investigation.
"I do believe there was a disregard with a transparent obliviousness to the significance of a call where you hear 10 shots," Mathes said.
The 6-foot-11 Wright played 13 seasons in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wright left the University of Memphis early for the NBA, and the Clippers made him a lottery pick with the No. 7 selection overall.
He averaged 8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 778 career games.
Wright leaves behind six children, his mother Deborah Marion, and father Herb Wright, who coached his son from a wheelchair after he was shot in the spine. Lorenzen Wright's 11-month-old daughter, Sierra, died in March 2003 of sudden infant death syndrome.
Messages of sadness and condolence have poured in from around the NBA since Wright's body was found. Hundreds of people have visited the scene near where Wright's body was found to pay respects to the beloved Memphis native.
Mathes said she is hoping to set up a fund for Wright's children, with hopes of getting contributions from NBA players.