Back to mobile

Updated: Justice Department May Investigate Alfred Wright’s Death

by Published on
Alfred Wright
Sabine County Sheriff's Department
Alfred Wright

For months now—during the search for 28-year-old Alfred Wright last fall, and the investigations into his death that followed, on Jasper’s local TV news and on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″—Wright’s family has resolutely hoped for one thing: a federal investigation they believe could uncover a truth local authorities might rather keep hidden.

Now, according to Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the family may finally get its wish. On Monday, Jackson Lee announced the U.S. Department of Justice had been swayed by her request last month and would “investigate and take appropriate action” regarding Wright’s death.

The announcement, first reported Tuesday by the Beaumont Enterprise, is light on details of the scope of this new federal investigation, who’ll carry it out, and what impact it might have on the ongoing Texas Rangers’ investigation. The congresswoman’s office referred me to the Department of Justice for details.

A spokeswoman at the U.S. Attorney’s regional office in Beaumont said Tuesday she was aware of Jackson Lee’s announcement, but declined to comment, as did a Department of Justice spokeswoman in Washington.

Jackson Lee asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Wright’s death shortly after meeting with Wright’s family two weeks ago. Wright’s family and friends, and activists who’ve flocked to the “Justice for Alfred” cause, say the Sabine County Sheriff’s Department has mishandled Wright’s case from the start, or may even be hiding evidence that Wright was murdered.

A toxicology report attributed Wright’s death to a lethal combination of cocaine, methamphetamine and amphetamine, and said there were no signs of foul play. A forensic pathologist hired by the family disagreed with that last point, saying she found “signs suspicious of homicidal violence” on Wright’s body, including a cut across his neck.

Wright’s body was found in a field near where he’d disappeared weeks earlier, missing his eyes, an ear and some teeth—damage the official autopsy attributes to animal activity, but which some activists take as signs Wright was tortured before his death. Wright’s case has been a lightning rod in Jasper’s African-American community; rallies and fundraisers for Wright’s family have featured other stories of black men and women who’ve died or disappeared in the area under mysterious circumstances.

There’s no word on how soon Texas Rangers might finish their inquiry, or how federal involvement might affect their efforts. “The case remains under investigation,” Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger told the Observer Wednesday. “I don’t have any additional information at this time.”

In the absence of a conclusive investigation, Wright’s family and friends, and others around Jasper, have begun sharing a general sense of injustice, and specific theories about what really happened to Wright. Those theories got a national airing in a three-night series of reports on Anderson Cooper’s show. The third installment included a segment on a dime found near Wright’s body, suggesting a connection to Sheriff Tom Maddox’s ex-girlfriend, who said that when they were together, she often found dimes around her home. Reporter Deborah Feyerick explains the significance: “In the criminal world, dropping a dime means snitching on someone, and leaving a dime on a scene can be a warning to keep your mouth shut.”

On Monday, the Shreveport TV station KSLA aired a report on Wright’s case including a new anecdote from a Sabine County woman who said her husband, who is black, had recently stopped outside the same liquor store where Wright was last seen alive, two days prior to Wright’s disappearance. The woman said two men attacked her husband at the store and called him racial slurs, but Sheriff Maddox dismissed her concerns that the cases could be related.

And this morning, “Good Morning America” aired an interview with Wright’s wife, mother and father. Wright’s mother Rosalind directly addressed her doubts that her son’s death was accidental: “I feel like they held him hostage, and they tortured him.”

UPDATE Thursday at 3 p.m.:

Wright’s brother Savion is a contestant on the current season of American Idol, and on Wednesday night he performed a song he wrote for Alfred. Talking to host Ryan Seacrest, Savion only hints at the controversy around his brother’s death, saying, “I put all my anger and my emotions into my song.”

The reality show has driven even more national attention to Wright’s death than any previous reporting, and coincided with a crowdfunding campaign Savion Wright began for his brother’s family. Idol fans shared their outrage on Twitter, often sharing new stories in Rolling Out magazine that reject the official autopsy outright, including: “Black father found dead with throat cut, ear missing: Texas sheriff claims he overdosed” and “Alfred Wright murder: Ear cut off as trophy, like lynching postcards.”

Also on Thursday, KTRE reported that the Texas attorney general’s office has taken over the case from Sabine County prosecutors. District Attorney Kevin Dutton said in a press release:

“It is my understanding that the investigation by the Texas Rangers is substantially complete. … Due to the allegations against the sheriff, and to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I have been requested and have agreed to turn this case over to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.”

 

Previous coverage:

A Missing Man and Familiar Old Wounds in Jasper

Family, Activists Want Outside Help Investigating Jasper Man’s Death

Official Report Cites Drug Overdose as Cause of Alfred Wright’s Death

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a competitive eating enthusiast.

  • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

    Following not limited to McCall’s gang, nor to McCall’s city, nor to the 1970s.

    Following racist behavior downplayed [then and now] by MSM and Government.
    MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER by Nathan McCall [born 1955] ……..
    [Prof Afro Am studies - Emory U] Published 1994 page 62………..

    “WE all hated white people. ……

    WE reached 9th grade and were sent to the mostly white Woodrow Wilson Hi School
    across town,
    WE fucked up white boys more than we went to class.

    WE walked through secluded areas of the building … When
    WE came upon A white boy, …
    WE’d do him in. One day,
    WE double banked a guy standing at his locker….
    WE walked as if WE were going to pass him, then Lep hauled off and punched him
    in the face.
    Then I popped him in the mout. Before I could hit him again, somebody else hit
    him…
    WE kicked him in the face and stomped him until blood squirted everywhere.
    …and
    [WE] went home.” END QUOTE
    http://www.amazon.com/Makes-Me
    http://www.nathanmccall.net/

    • george the sceptical

      Is there a point to this?
      Or are you just trying to justify racial violence?

      • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

        You annoyance at seeing some racial reality is noted.

        • george the sceptical

          And this has what to do with the subject of the article?

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            Alfred Wright case getting a lot of EXTRA MSMedia/Fed government attention.
            [while downplaying/ignoring scads of multiVictim black perp white victim violent crime cases]

            Is there a point to this ?

            Why is the MSMedia/Fed government trying to justify racial violence against white people?
            Have any idea how many whites were attacked by “teens” due to Media/Federal government hyping the Tray/Zim case ?
            Media and Federal government are deliberately increasing racial animosity by a combination of downplaying/ignoring disporportionate black perp white victim violent crime while simultaneously hyping what few cases of white perp black victim violent crime they can find or manufacture.
            [and that is presuming whites killed Al Wright .... which at this point we don't know for sure]

          • george the sceptical

            The Wright case is getting attention because it’s starting to look like the sheriff may have been in on it.
            But you just keep playing the victim.
            Even though you’re not very good at it.

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            Your evident belief that whites cannot be victims [or that it matters not when whites are victimized] is noted. It is a matter of fact [a fact MSM and Fed government play down as much as possible] that regarding interRacial violent crimes, whites are almost always the victims. When it comes to playing “victim”,… thanks to decades of brainwashing from such as you,… no group has been doing it better than blacks for decades.

          • george the sceptical

            When whites are victimized by blacks, conviction rates are very high.
            When blacks are victimized by whites…. Not so much.

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            You really think whites are murdering, raping and robbing blacks at the same rates blacks are murdring, raping and robbing whites ? Sheeesh, one reason for the high conviction rates of blacks is that a significant portion of young black thugs proudly post their gang attacks on such as Facebook. In the following UTube, note Travis Smiley does not disagree with Larry Elder’s contention that FBI stats show that 90% interRacial violent crime is black perp white victim [spoken within the first minute]. http://youtu.be/IhlW6gQx57s

          • george the sceptical

            Tavis Smiley.
            And your theory concerning higher conviction rates is ridiculous.

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            So your dismissal of the fact that 90% of violent interracial crime is black perp white victim is based on a claim/belief that most/many of the white victims are lieing about the race of their attacker ? I’m not denying that some of both races lie about the race of the attacker,…. however, I don’t believe the numbers of liars in this regard is enough to significantly change the percent number that you seem to be choking on.

          • george the sceptical

            No.
            I just see no point in perpetuating blatant racism.

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            You currently are perfectly contend with blatant anti White racis. As for conviction rates/sentences: Never heard of whites home invading a black home. Never heard of whites mugging a black. Nearly ALL interracial rapes are black perp. So,…. usually when a white does kill a black,… the white has MUCH BETTER REASON.

          • Martel

            Does either you or George know whether incidents where a (white or black)police officer shot and killed a (black or white) suspect is subtracted from the FBI statistics covering interracial homicides?

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            If a shooting [by police or common citizen] is deemed justified,.. then it should not be [and I'm confident would not be] counted as a “homocide.”

          • Martel

            I see, I was put of by the word “kill” you used above,and assumed all killings where included in the report. I expected this to explain why there was even a small portion of “white on black” killings registered by the FBI. I’m sure a large portion of those can be explained by many non-Europeans who are often categorized as white in police reports and news articles. Outside of conflicts in the underworld, or assaults initiated by blacks, I believe black males, like black females, have nothing to worry from European Americans.

            Thanks.

          • Ashley X

            I think Black women all over America feel a great loss… LOL

          • Martel

            ROFL

          • Lena Bea

            It was a white male that broke into my home three times in a course of less than thirty days before he was finally caught. More importantly he was a meth addict who didn’t care who’s home he invaded as long as he got goods to sell for drugs. I am a single black mother of three who works very hard to maintain a healthy and safe home so to say the least I felt violated. But I was never concerned with the race of the individual but more with the fact that he now felt safer entering my home than I felt being there.

            Alfred Wright’s circumstances are tragic indeed but we do not know all of the facts and need to stop pointing fingers and work together to find the individual(s) responsible. Although reported as such, clearly this is not a suicide or an accidental death. Yes I do believe there is more to the story than what is being told but we must respect that the investigating officials are doing their due diligence to follow-up accordingly. If you are really concerned with how the case is being handled then there are more productive avenues than smearing another individual over a public blog; such as writing your congressman.

            Ignorance and hatred are taught, just as love and resect. Slinging vulgar remarks back and forth will not undo what has been done. What it will do is further seed the blind hatred and racism propagated by those who want to play the persecuted (which seems to be come from both sides) and persecutor. There will never be a resolution if WE… meaning men/women, young/old, gay/straight, religious/atheist, black/white/green/yellow actually believe that we have to live divided to flourish. The truth is WE ALL suffer when our community is divided.
            George and John, you both bring up valid perspectives and I hope that you both are willing to analytically view this from each others perspective. If you took the intensity you both have expressed under this article and directed it towards a positive goal you both would achieve so much; a true asset to whatever focus you have chosen to dedicat your efforts towards.

          • http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/ John Prewett

            “If you are really concerned with how the case is being handled then there are more productive avenues than smearing another individual over a public blog; such as writing your congressman.” …………..Lena, For starters, I can’ think of a better way to waste time than writing a congressman. As for it being a white that burglarized you,…. I never denied there plenty of white criminals. I hope you heard Larry Elders point that he made in the first minute of his talk with Travis Smiley. I contend racial intrinsic moral equality,… but cultures are not morallyequal. While such as Professor Nathan McCall were learning to hate all whites, I was being taught to accept such as government racist imposed “Affirmative Action” and singing KUMBAYA. White liberals helped teach such as Professor McCall that whites in general deserved to be punished. Best wishes to you and your family. But be advised that in regard to VIOLENT crime,… your odds of being harmed by a young black male is much more than that of being harmed by a white male …… yet MSM liberals and liberal supported black voices such as JJackson and Al Sharpton would have you believe white males are devils incarnate. Happy to talk with you again after you read http://www.amazon.com/Makes-Me-Wanna-Holler-America/dp/0679740708 ….. http://homicides.suntimes.com/suspects/ ….. http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/murder_in_nyc_2012.pdf [see page 8 of the pdf]

          • Barb Runk

            Maybe because whites work harder and can afford better lawyers.

          • george the sceptical

            Mexicans work harder than both.
            How are their conviction rates?

  • lessthantolerant

    This sounds like a waste of time and money. This guy’s past seems to warrant no effort be expended.

    • george the sceptical

      What do you know about the man’s past that we don’t?

      • lessthantolerant

        Nothing, I said we should look into his past and see if there are circumstances that may add to his disappearance.
        The story sounds very strange and news appears to be convoluted.
        Too many crying racism already before we know what may have caused his demise.

        • george the sceptical

          No. That’s not what you said. You indicated that you knew something of his past. Read your post again. I just did.
          We know what caused his demise. Blunt force to the head. And then, of course, there’s the slit throat. The sheriff says animals did this. No. Animals do not slit your throat, they tear you throat.
          A man is dead under suspicious circumstances. There are many unanswered questions. I believe that every effort should be expended to get to the bottom of this. And that it needs to be done by an outside agency. No way in hell I would trust the locals.
          Your cries of racism make it all too clear who you are.
          I believe there is every possibility that this was a black on black crime.
          But I damn sure don’t believe that this was a simple drug overdose.
          I do not trust what the authorities are saying.
          This needs a full investigation.

  • Vero Gracia

    YES THIS IS VERONICA AND I WANT TO FIND WHO DO I NEED TO WRITE TO ABOUT MY DAD WAS SENT TO JASPER AND NEVER HEARD BACK FROM HIM HE WAS SENT TO PRISON IN JASPER AND WANT TO GET THE NAME WERE HE WAS SENT I BELIEVE 649 PRIVET SO KEEP ME IN FORMED REALLY TIRED OF THINGS THAT ARE BEING COVERED UP AT ALL THE PRISON FAULCILITY FOR KIDS ,FOSTER HOMES ,SENOR CITIZENS HOMES AND PRISONS I GET VERY INVOLED AND NOW ALMOST EVERYONE MET OBAMA ONE TIME AND MET HIS BROTHER EARL WILLIAM CAMPBELL COME ON I’M A VERY SMART AND NOW SHASHA AND THERE ROSA KIDS SO YEA I KNOW WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT NEED TO NO VERY CONCERD DAUGHTER CAUSE IF THATS THE CASE I’M SO READY TO CLOSE THAT PLACE … THANK YOU VERONICA MARIE GRACIA ///YES I ‘M AN AMERICAN BUT MY DADS MEXICAN AND MEXICAN LIVE LIKE THE JEWISH…