Backwoods Mystery: The Alfred Wright Investigation

CNN's AC360 Jasper Man Mysterious Death Investigation
Published: Jan. 29, 2014 at 11:11 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2014 at 10:15 PM CST
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Sabine County, TX resident Sheela Bennett has new allegations about the case.
Sabine County, TX resident Sheela Bennett has new allegations about the case.
Alfred and Lauren Wright
Alfred and Lauren Wright
CL&M Grocery, Inc. Package Store in Sabine County, TX
CL&M Grocery, Inc. Package Store in Sabine County, TX
Official autopsy says Wright died from an accidental drug overdose. Wright's family hired a...
Official autopsy says Wright died from an accidental drug overdose. Wright's family hired a pathologist who says she believes it was homicide.
Alfred Wright's truck broke down at CL&M Liquor store in Sabine County, TX
Alfred Wright's truck broke down at CL&M Liquor store in Sabine County, TX

SABINE COUNTY, TX (KSLA) - It's an Ark-La Tex case making national headlines: A-28-year-old physical therapist and married father of 3 disappears and turns up dead just 25 yards from where he was last seen. Now United States Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is getting involved and asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take over the investigation.

In a 3-page letter from Congresswoman Jackson's office, she asks for a thorough investigation to see if Alfred Wright's civil rights were violated.

Wright's family believes he was murdered and they say law enforcement knows something.  KSLA News 12's Domonique Benn went to Sabine county, TX to investigate and found new details into this backwoods mystery.

Alfred Wright's body was found just off of Highway 87, down Coussons Drive, a hidden road tucked away behind miles of brush. Lauren Wright, Alfred's wife said when her mother-in-law drove down the road for the first time, she said she knew her husband would never go down the dark desolate road.

Alfred was last seen about four miles away at CL&M Grocery Inc. "Package Store" on November 7, 2013.  His truck had broken down at the store and he called his wife from his cell phone.  His wife was at home with 2 small children at the time, so she says she sent her in-laws to help.  Lauren says when she called back to check on her husband, she immediately knew something was wrong. Lauren said on the other end of the phone she could hear heavy breathing and it sounded like her husband was in respiratory distress.

By the time Alfred's parents reached the store he wasn't there.  The family says the clerk at the store told them he put his phone in his sock and started running toward town.  "I think if a white guy got out of his truck and headed towards town he would have made it," says Sabine County resident Sheela Bennett, referring to the racial tensions said to exist in Sabine County, TX.

Bennett, who is also in an interracial marriage like the Wrights, thought she had information that could help. Three weeks before Alfred disappeared, Sheela's husband was driving down Highway 87 and was hit from behind, right in front of that same liquor store.   Sheela said when her husband went to check on the damage from his truck, 2 men jumped him and started calling him racial slurs.

A day after Alfred went missing, Sheela said she went to Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox to see if the two men had struck again.  According to Sheela, she said the Sheriff stopped her mid-conversation and said her husband's incident had nothing to do with the Wright investigation.  Sheela said the Sheriff told her, "This boy has done this to himself." Sheela said the Sheriff then walked her out of his office. She left completely stunned.

Sheela also said the sheriff told her that the clerk in the store thought Alfred was going to rob her and the clerk was watching him very carefully. She said the sheriff thought he was running from the law.

Sheriff Maddox has declined interviews with KSLA News 12. Four days after Alfred Wright disappeared, Sheriff Maddox called off the search and said he didn't suspect foul play.  Alfred's family said they never believed in the sheriff's office which prompted them to begin their own searches.  Nineteen days later, Alfred's own family found his body less than 150 yards from where sheriff's deputies originally set up their search command post.

Yahtorah Kupenda was in the search group that found Alfred's body and took pictures of the scene. Kupenda described the body as having no eyes and his ear was cut off. Kassilia Wright, Alfred's sister said she believes he was captured and tortured before being killed and dumped in the remote area.

The official autopsy revealed accidental drug overdose. It showed shallow puncture wounds on his left palm, left thigh, leg, and abdomen, but no evidence of severe trauma.  The autopsy said what appeared to be a straight cut on his neck was from animal activity.

The family hired their own pathologist, Dr. Leann Grossman.  During a news conference, Dr. Grossman said she has a high index of suspicion that Alfred Wright's death is a homicide.  Dr. Grossman said there was severe trauma to the neck and head in addition to his ear and teeth missing. She also said it appeared his throat had been slashed.  Now there are more questions than answers for a family who has lost faith in law enforcement.

When Alfred Wright first disappeared, KSLA News 12 pulled an indictment filed by the Western District of Tennessee.  Wright was charged with intending to defraud Independent Bank in Memphis of more than $1,000.

His Memphis Jack Irvine spoke with KSLA News 12's Domonique Benn and said Alfred would not agree to a plea agreement even though the penalty was not significant.  At the time of Alfred's disappearance his attorney said he can't imagine that it had anything to do with the allegations in Memphis.

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