Family of Alfred Wright seeking justice
Attorneys representing the family of Alfred Wright — an African-American Jasper man who was found dead weeks after he went missing near Hemphill, Texas — say law enforcement in Sabine County have botched the investigation into Wright’s death.
“On Nov. 25, Mrs. Wright got the news that no parent should ever have to hear,” said attorney Ryan MacLeod of the Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont. “That her son’s body had been found dead.”
In a press conference held at the Bernsen Law Firm, MacLeod outlined the family’s claims about an investigation by Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox and by the Texas Rangers they say was mishandled, citing as an example the loss of video surveillance footage taken from the CL&M Grocery store where Wright was last seen.
“What’s important is there’s a camera directly in the middle of that store where Alfred’s truck was parked,” MacLeod said. “That camera, if you go there today, is missing. That camera is gone.”
MacLeod went on to say that Maddox called off the search for Wright’s body after only three days and turned down funds and equipment offered him by members of the Hemphill community, including helicopters to search the thick woods surrounding the area. Maddox’s office also denied the family’s independent forensic pathologist permission to attend the original autopsy, MacLeod said.
Eventually, the Wright’s independent forensic pathologist, Leeane Grossberg, was granted access to Wright’s body and said her findings contradict the preliminary findings of Sabine County’s original autopsy, which found no evidence of homicide.
“Based on the information I have thus far, I have a high index of suspicion that this is a homicide,” Grossberg said. “I base that opinion on the circumstances surrounding his death, where and how the body was found and my findings at autopsy,” adding her findings were still preliminary and did not include a definitive cause of death.
“My examination was limited due to the somewhat advanced decomposition of the body and due to the fact that it was a second autopsy,” Grossberg said. “But I did see findings that were suspicious for homicidal violence.”
MacLeod said no law enforcement official from the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office or the Texas Rangers have taken formal statements from family members who spoke to Wright in the moments before his disappearance or from those individuals in a family search party that eventually found Wright’s body in the woods near Hemphill. He said the Bernsen Law Firm has hired a number of court reporters to take the statements that law enforcement did not.
“To call the Sabine County sheriff’s investigation ‘an investigation’ is an insult,” MacLeod said. “At very best, it was grossly negligent.”
Yahtorah Kupenda, who found Wright’s body, said the body was in a state of decay and disarray.
“He was wearing just his boxers, one sock, both shoes and his cell phone was in his sock,” Kupenda said. “His keys were also in the bottom of his shoes.”
After searching for only a few hours, Kupenda said he was shocked at how Wright’s body was left.
“It looked like they just dumped him,” he said.
Clay Thorp can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 222, or by e-mail at clay [at] theexaminer [dot] com.