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.
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.
But the medical examiner chalked up the trauma to "animal and insect activity" and labeled the death accidental.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee reached out to the Justice Department to take on the case, after Wright's family came to her for help.
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.
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."
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.
One of the local policemen responded to a Facebook post that Wright was probably just hiding to "keep from going to prison."
"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."
Wright's widow, Lauren, said that her husband had been acting strange the week he went missing, after his car began to have problems.
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.
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.
A $30,000 reward is being offered for information about Wright's death that leads to a conviction.
Rachel Zarrell is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Rachel Zarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.