by Richard Rowe
Alfred Wright was a 28-year-old physical therapist, a “man of great faith,” and father of three sons. He grew up in Jasper, Texas, along with four siblings and a father who was both the town’s pastor and gym teacher. Friends described him as ambitious, clean-living, hard-working, fun-loving, brilliant and a wonderful father. He went missing for 18 days. He was found by volunteers and his father, stripped down to his shorts and one sock, with his throat cleanly slit and one ear missing.
The police recorded the cause of death as “accidental drug overdose.”
Alfred Wright was also a Black man married to a pretty white woman … in small-town Texas.
Alfred’s truck broke down in a convenience store parking lot while he was on his way to see a patient. He called his wife Lauren, who called her parents; by the time they got there, he was gone. Lauren attempted to call him back, but all she heard when he picked up the phone was heavy breathing. The store clerk, who remembers Wright because he was dressed in scrubs, said he saw him tuck his phone into his sock (where it was later found) and take off jogging “of his own free will.”
Wright’s wristwatch and pieces of the scrubs he had worn were found in a pasture the day after he disappeared, the Associated Press reports. But four days later, the sheriff’s department called off the search for Alfred, saying they had “exhausted all of their resources.”
His wife and family maintained that there was no way he’d just take off into the woods for no reason, especially in a town as racially tense as Jasper. Doubtless, they had in mind another incident that had taken place in 1998 about 45 minutes away, when a Black man by the name of James Byrd was abducted, dragged behind a pickup, chopped to pieces and left in the Jasper cemetery — by three white men.
The police recorded the cause of death as “accidental drug overdose.” Alfred Wright was also a Black man married to a pretty white woman … in small-town Texas.
According to the Associated Press, “‘The initial search I think was incredibly ill performed,’ said Cade Bernsen, one of the attorneys for Wright’s family. …
“Wright’s family organized its own search party and found the body Nov. 25 about 200 yards from where a piece of his clothing had been initially located. Wright was only wearing underwear, a pair of black shoes and one sock on his left foot. Inside his sock was his cellphone.
“‘It’s questionable how his body was not found when the sheriff said (they) ran dogs through there,’ Bernsen said.”
The family found Alfred with two missing teeth, a missing ear and a slit throat. When the local authorities performed an autopsy, the examiner said that there were methamphetamines and cocaine in his system. He recorded the cause of death as a drug overdose, and chalked up the injuries to animals scavenging on his corpse. The case was closed as far as the Jasper police were concerned.
But Wright’s family wasn’t buying it. For several reasons:
- Even at the time, it was noted that Wright’s state of decomposition was nowhere near what it should have been for someone left in the woods for 18 days and exposed to the weather. This indicated that he had died much more recently, long after he’d disappeared.
- Animals don’t just break front teeth and cleanly slit throats. The missing ear might have been the result of an animal, but Wright’s body was, if anything, notable for its LACK of obvious animal scavenging in this coyote-infested area.
- The family reported that Wright was a sober and religious man who had no history of drug use, never showed the slightest interest in drugs, and displayed no signs of drug addiction or use.
The family paid to have its own autopsy performed. Full results have yet to be released insofar as Wright’s blood tests, but the forensic pathologist, Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg, said her preliminary review found things that were “suspicious of homicidal violence.”
She said Wright’s cause of death was severe neck trauma and a slit throat. The kind of severe neck trauma you get from getting hit in the face with a blunt object, and the kind of slit throat you don’t get from a cocaine overdose.
Sheila Jackson Lee, Democratic congresswoman and member of the House Judiciary Committee, said: “The Department of Justice will investigate and take appropriate action and will conduct a thorough and independent investigation into all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy and to take appropriate action necessary to vindicate the federal interest, protect the civil rights of all Americans, ensure that all persons receive equal justice under law.
“We are all better off when the facts are discovered, the truth is discerned and the family and the community are at peace.”
The forensic pathologist, Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg, said her preliminary review found things that were “suspicious of homicidal violence.”
Rosalind Wright, Alfred’s mother, has set up a GoFundMe account to allow others to make donations to help support her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren Wright’s murderers left fatherless and without a means of support. The stated goal is $20,000, and as of Feb. 7 she had raised $13,351 and change.