1. Three months after 28-year-old Alfred Wright’s mutilated body was found in a field in Sabine, Texas, the Justice Department has picked up the case.
2. When he was found on Nov. 25, the physical therapist’s body was missing his tongue, an ear and some teeth, and his throat was slit. He was in his boxers, and his belongings were scattered about.
3. But the medical examiner chalked up the trauma to “animal and insect activity” and labeled the death accidental.
A second autopsy the family commissioned from Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg showed “a high index of suspicion that this is a homicide,” she said.
The coroner’s toxicology report also said that Wright’s body had signs of cocaine, meth, and amphetamines, and ruled the death “accidental” due to a “combined drug intoxication.”
4. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee reached out to the Justice Department to take on the case, after Wright’s family came to her for help.
Writing to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jackson Lee pointed out that Jasper, where Wright is from, was the location of the 1998 death of James Byrd. Byrd, a black man, had been strapped to a car by three white men and dragged for three miles until he was decapitated.
“This case appears to bear the indicia of a suspicious crime in which an African-American male is yet again the victim of an act of lethal violence,” she wrote.
Jackson Lee added, “Despite credible and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, local law enforcement officials ruled the death … as ‘accidental’ and ceased their investigation. Equally troubling is the fact that one of the last persons to see Alfred Wright alive is a Sabine County law enforcement officer … who, according to the Wright family, has yet to be questioned fully by investigators.”
5. Wright, the older brother of American Idol finalist Savion Wright, had encountered car trouble on his way to a physical therapy session the day he disappeared, and pulled into a grocery store.
Wright had given his wife, Lauren, directions to the store, and since their two young sons were sick, her parents set out to meet him, but he had disappeared shortly before they arrived. His truck was still in the parking lot.
“The last time I called him, I just heard heavy breathing,” Lauren said. “He was in distress of some sort. He was not responding to anything I was saying.”
6. The clerk at the grocery store said Wright was there for almost an hour, before he took off and ran “down the road like his truck was about to explode,” his mother, Rosalind, told reporters. “She said she’d never seen anything like it.”
7. After Sabine County Sheriff Thomas Maddox’s officials searched the area around the store, they found pieces of the scrubs Wright had been wearing, plus his ID pack, wallet, a shoe, a sock, and his watch.
8. But Maddox called off the search four days after Wright vanished, saying he didn’t suspect foul play and calling it a “classic drug case,” Wright’s mother said.
According to lawyer Ryan MacLeod, Wright’s family was allegedly told by Maddox, “Your son’s just a missing person. My guys are tired. We’ve exhausted our resources and funds. We’re done.”
When he disappeared, Wright was under indictment for allegedly embezzling money from his days working at a bank while in college in Tennessee. But his lawyer said the penalty would be at most six months of probation, and a small fine.
Lauren described the as sheriff “belligerent and rude.”
“He would shout at us, ‘I don’t have to be here you know. I could be hunting with my family,’” she said.
9. One of the local policemen responded to a Facebook post that Wright was probably just hiding to “keep from going to prison.”
10. “I think this is a hate crime,” Rosalind told MailOnline. “What they did to my boy, it hurts me so much to think of it.”
The Texas Rangers, who eventually took over the case from the local police, said Wright’s death was “questionable.”
11. Wright’s widow, Lauren, said that her husband had been acting strange the week he went missing, after his car began to have problems.
“It was almost like he was paranoid or something,” she said. “I told him he needed to eat something and go to bed but it was like he couldn’t turn his mind off. He couldn’t settle.”
12. Making the case even stranger is that the Wright family’s private investigator told MailOnline that Alfred was having an affair with Cindy Maddox, the sheriff’s daughter. The woman denied the accusation.
“I don’t think it’s true that there were other women,” Lauren said. “But I don’t know. I looked through his phone records and there were no repeated calls.”
13. People on social media have been posting about organizing rallies and getting justice for Wright, sharing a poster that shows a gruesome photo of his decomposed body.
“#JusticeForAlfredWright. He was found dead, lying face down, only wearing boxers, a sock, and shoes. His tongue was cut off and his eyes were taken out. Some teeth were missing and an ear was cut off. And they said it was a drug overdose?! smdh. Oh yea, and the county has some racial tensions towards black. Coincidence? Nah. #AlfredWright #Justice #Murder #Homicide #Drug #Overdose #SMH #Racism”