MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Billy Ray Turner is infamously known as the man who murdered a Memphis basketball legend.
The world has heard a lot about Turner, but very little from him.
Turner spoke to WREG Investigators April Thompson and Zaneta Lowe from the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only, Tennessee, located about two and a half hours northeast of Memphis, between Jackson and Nashville.
The Turney Center is where Turner is serving a life sentence for killing Lorenzen Wright.
For several months, the WREG Investigators have been communicating with Turner behind bars. He’s written letters and we’ve spoken on the phone.
We’ve discussed everything from his role in the killing of Lorenzen Wright to his relationship with Wright’s ex-wife Sherra. He also explained why after all these years he wants the public to hear directly from him.
In fact, for years, after his indictment, the WREG Investigators tried speaking with Turner through his relatives and attorney. But, this time, he reached out to us.
“You contacted us saying you wanted to speak. We’ve been trying to speak with you during this whole process. Why did you contact us and what do you hope that this will accomplish?” asked April Thompson.
“Well, I was hoping that someone, I contacted you all because I just wanted to tell my side of the story,” said Turner.
Turner says he couldn’t share his story before, and he claims it could prove his innocence.
“I wanted to really put out there what really all happened, what really happened, and to and for the people who was left out of this, that could have set me free,” Turner continued.
On March 21, 2022, Turner sat quietly as a jury convicted him on all counts.
That included first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
“Why do you think you were found guilty?” asked Thompson.
Turner replied, “I was found guilty because, emotional. Not because of the evidence that they had against me. It was basically an emotional conviction because everybody was tied to Lorenzen and everybody loved Lorenzen.”
That evidence included testimony from a Memphis Police officer who broke the case, cell phone records showing hundreds of calls between Billy and Sherra before and after Lorenzen’s death, plus Billy’s cell phone data the night of the murder.
“If you weren’t involved and there were these other people and information that you believe could have cleared your name, how did you get caught up in all of this in the first place?” asked WREG Investigator Zaneta Lowe.
Turner replied, “I got caught up because I did work with Sherra. I did work for her and in the process doing work, I didn’t really know Jimmie. I didn’t know Jimmie.”
Turner was referring to Jimmie Martin, the prosecution’s star witness.
Martin is Sherra’s cousin and a convicted killer. The state named him an unindicted co-conspirator; they said he led police to the murder weapon.
Walking in front of the jury during his opening statement at Turner’s trial, Assistant District Attorney Paul Hagerman held a gun in his hand and said, “This is the gun that killed Lorenzen Wright, right where Jimmie said it was in 2012.”
Lowe asked Turner in reference to the weapon, “Was that your gun?”
“No, that wasn’t my gun. You noticed that the gun didn’t come back to anybody,” responded Turner.
On the stand in his prison issued clothing, Martin described the plot to kill Lorenzen and said who pulled the trigger.
He told Hagerman and the jury that Sherra told him, she and Billy had guns.
“She said both of them fired,” explained Martin.
“I want to be crystal clear about this. Did you shoot or kill Lorenzen Wright?” Lowe asked Turner.
“No, I did not. I never was there. I never was there,” exclaimed Turner.
Lowe continued, “Were you in the woods with Sherra that night?”
“No. No, I was nowhere near,” responded Turner.
Sherra was sentenced to 30 years after taking a plea before Turner stood trial. He had the chance to take a plea deal, too.
When asked why he went to trial instead, Turner replied, “Because I felt like I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything criminal. So I wasn’t taking any plea for something I did not do. I know that I’m innocent of this,” continued Turner.
“So a jury of your peers got it wrong?” asked Lowe.
“Yes. Yes. Most, definitely. Yes,” Turner answered. “They didn’t take time out, they didn’t take time out to deliberate over my situation. They even ate lunch during the deliberation over my, over my — decision over a man’s life.”
In addition to his life sentence for murder, Turner is serving 41 years for the two additional counts and an unrelated gun plea.
At 52 years old, he’s now living in the place he’s likely to die.
“What keeps you going and keep fighting for this?” asked Thompson.
“My life,” he said. “Because my life was taken from me because of the jury that, you know, that they really don’t know.”