Pathologist hired to do 2nd autopsy on Jasper man suspects homicide
Alfred Wright's parents
BEAUMONT, TX (KTRE) -
During a press conference in Beaumont Friday morning, a Houston forensic pathologist hired to perform a second autopsy on Alfred Wright's body, said that she disagrees with the preliminary findings from the first official autopsy.
Lee Ann Grossberg, who was hired by the legal team representing Alfred Wright's family, said even though Wright's body was found in an advanced state of decomposition, there was enough physical trauma to suggest some type of homicidal violence.
"Based on the investigation I have a high index of suspicion that this is a homicide," Grossberg said."I base that opinion on circumstances surrounding the death, how and where the body was found, and my findings at autopsy."
Attorneys for Alfred Wright's family held the press conference at the Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont Friday morning. Wright's family members, friends, and local clergy were in attendance at the press conference.
Ryan MacLeod, a former Galveston County prosecutor, says he feels law enforcement has mishandled the investigation.
"That young man's body is found about 100 yards from a residence...where a wrist watch was found. It's where a perfectly cut rectangular piece of clothing was found. His clothing is found in a pasture. His body is found right there and you're telling me there's no signs of foul play?" said MacLeod.
MacLeod says he has asked law enforcement several times for evidence in this case, including surveillance footage from the CL&M package store where Wright was last seen alive.
"What's also important is that there is a camera directly in the middle of that store where Alfred's truck was parked and that camera--if you go back there today--it's missing," MacLeod said.
MacLeod says he has the utmost respect for the Texas Rangers, but he says someone from the agency needs to start providing more information to the family.
Cade Bernsen, an attorney for Bernsen Law in Beaumont, says he is upset because law enforcement has still not taken any statements from the family members who found Wright's body.
"We don't know right now who is in charge of this investigation. We don't know, but if someone does know something about this case call our office. We are actually hiring court reporters to take statements of the witnesses because neither the Rangers or the Sabine County Sheriff's Department has done that," Bernsen said.
Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox has since not commented on the second autopsy or its findings.
Family members and friends found Wright's body in a wooded area of Sabine County on Nov. 25. The discovery came 18 days after the 28-year-old Jasper man was last seen alive in Hemphill. Despite the fact that authorities mounted ground and air searches for Wright, his body was found about approximately 25 yards from where he disappeared.
Grossberg said that her thoughts are only a preliminary opinion. She added that she can't determine the cause and manner of death without further investigation. The forensic pathologist said she is still waiting on the pictures from the first autopsy, and she is having a hard time receiving them.
However, Grossberg said that she found evidence that suggested homicide. She declined to share any additional details from her autopsy. The pathologist said because Wright's body was in an advanced state of decomposition, it was very difficult to perform the second autopsy.
Grossberg said that she disagreed with the preliminary findings from the first autopsy, which indicated there was no trauma found on Wright's body. She added that she would not have put that in her autopsy result because there was enough trauma on Wright's body to suggest that his death was a homicide.
MacLeod said that the Sabine County Sheriff's Office took no formal statements from the family members who found Wright's body on Nov. 25. In addition, he said they haven't heard back from Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn, despite repeated requests for more information.
As a result of the family's mounting frustration, MacLeod said his firm is urging the family to get the FBI involved in the investigation.
Earlier this month, authorities released the preliminary autopsy report on Wright. According to the autopsy report, Wright's body had shallow puncture wounds, but there was no evidence of severe trauma.
After Wright's body was found, private investigator Chuck Foreman, who was hired by the Wright family, said he believes details are pointing towards foul play in his death.
"Things are just not adding up and I would like to see a full criminal investigation," Foreman said. "He's in his boxers. He's got a sock on and there's pocket change found by the searcher next to him. That's one indicator right there. How does a guy in boxer shorts with one sock on with a cell phone this big still in a sock still have pocket change with no clothes?"
Although Foreman was hired by Wright's family, he isn't a spokesman for them.
Wright's toxicology report is still pending.
On Monday, November 25, Foreman told KTRE news that an investigation showed Wright may have been using a substance known as bath salts for an energy boost.
Federal court documents confirmed Foreman's suspicion, as a report filed with the Sabine County Sheriff's office indicates Wright's wife told deputies Wright may have been using an unknown substance causing him to be paranoid.
The document was a petition for a warrant for Wright's arrest, as he had violated his bond conditions.
Wright was scheduled for a federal trial in Tennessee on a bank embezzlement charge.
Wright disappeared on Thursday, November 7. Earlier that evening, his car overheated and broke down at the CL&M Liquor store on Highway 87, which is about 4 miles south of Hemphill, according to Maddox.
A store clerk said she was outside smoking a cigarette when she watched Wright get out of his truck, put his cell phone in his pocket, and run towards the paved road heading towards town.
On Sunday, November 10 authorities discovered several items belonging to Wright including his scrub shirt, his pants, keys and his wallet. Maddox called off the ground search for Wright on Nov. 11.
The case drew the attention of civil rights activist Quanell X, who paid a visit to Hemphill on Nov. 20. He said Wright's family reached out to him in hopes of getting help to find Wright. Protesters gathered in Hemphill to voice their disapproval of the fact that Maddox had called off the ground search.
"I'm hoping that the sheriff will say since the people of this county have shown concern and they want to find him, and they're willing to volunteer their time, spend some of their own resources, bring in people from the outside to help find Mr. Wright, the least I can do as sheriff is assist them in any capacity I may without compromising the integrity of the investigation," Quanell X said. "Putting boots on the ground, searching the woods where this man's scent was last picked up, where his clothing was found. That's not compromising or jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation."
A leader of Al Sharpton's civil rights organization also came to show support and lend a helping hand in the search.
"Wherever he is, he's out there somewhere," said Nathaniel Brown, the president of the Galveston Chapter of National Action Network. "The family needs answers, the community needs answers, and we just need closure."