Photo by Patrick Michaels, Texas Observer
Alfred Wright, a resident of Jasper, TX, disappeared over a month ago after his car broke down outside of a store on Highway 87. Since his disappearance, and the discovery of his body on November 25th, mystery and suspicion have surrounded the case. From allegations that Wright was using bath salts and reports that there was a warrant out for his arrest, to fears about violent racism in a town just four miles from where he disappeared, the questions surrounding the case far outnumber the answers.
After family members found Wright's body twenty-five yards from where police discovered his belongings, and a second autopsy found evidence of trauma where the official autopsy ruled out homicide as a cause of death, Wright's family and members of the community gathered to express frustration with local law enforcement and to ask for outside help in solving the case.
More on Wright's disappearance and suspicions surrounding the case below the jump.
|Along with local news outlets, the Texas Observer has been covering this story since November when the saga began.
Wright's family first became frustrated with law enforcement when they called off the ground search for his body. Wright was eventually found through the efforts of a search party independent from the local police department, who had decided to treat it as a missing persons case.
When the body was discovered and examined, the results of the autopsy were released with "no evidence of severe trauma," the Observer reported. The family, by then being represented by the Bernsen Law Firm, hired a forensic pathologist to do an independent second autopsy. The pathologist, Lee Ann Grossman, disagreed with the preliminary findings released by the police department:
Based on the investigation I have a high index of suspicion that this is a homicide. I base that opinion on circumstances surrounding the death, how and where the body was found, and my findings at autopsy.
Other details have surfaced that have made Wright's friends, family, and community suspect foul play in his death. A video camera that should have recorded Wright in the parking lot next to his car has gone missing, and a "perfectly cut rectangular piece" of the scrubs he was wearing for a house visit that day was found on barbed wire near some of his possessions and traces of his blood.
A clerk at the store where the camera went missing said she saw him run north towards Hemphill, though his body was found south of the store along the highway. The town does not have a good reputation, according to a woman interviewed by the Observer. Another asked, "Who's gonna get out their truck and walk down a dark country road that time of evening?"
As many have pointed out, Jasper has a history of racially-aggravated violence, and the fears of racism in the death of Alfred Wright and the handling of his case are stirring many old memories and frustrations in the community. Local pastor Ray Lewis, who organized community members in the search for Wright, said, "We're trying not to make this deal a race issue, a hate issue, but like I said the other night if that's the road it takes us down, that's the road we're gonna travel."