The death of Texas father Alfred Wright last Thanksgiving has escaped the notice of many despite the once extensive news coverage. Wright’s mysterious death was the focus of national attention because of the gruesome discovery of the body, armed Black Panther protests and cries of a coverup.
Wright was a 28-year-old physical therapist whose car broke down on a lonely Texas road in Sabine County near Jasper, Texas. The area is known as a hotbed of white supremacists attacks and activity. In 1998 James Byrd, an innocent black man, was dragged to death behind a pickup truck until his body shredded to pieces. Three white men were arrested and had known white supremacist ties in Sabine County. When Wright failed to come home that night, his wife and family reported him missing. His broken down truck was found by the road and the Sheriff claimed there was no sign of Wright.
By all accounts, the Sheriff’s Department did a sloppy job of investigating Wright’s disappearance. It was only after the family organized a search party that his body was found 18 days later the week of Thanksgiving. The condition of the body was horrific, it was partially clad and badly mutilated. The family had many unanswered questions as to why the Sheriff’s Department missed the body that was only 300 yards from the search command post. The condition of the body made many think that Wright was the victim of a lynching because he allegedly was involved with multiple white women. The body appeared to have its throat cut as well as missing body parts, telltale signs of classic lynchings. Adding to the feeling of the family that there was foul play was the coroner’s ruling that Wright died of a drug overdose. It seemed unlikely to the family because Wright regularly worked out and lifted weights. So bizarre were the circumstances surrounding his death, that CNN sent reporter Anderson Cooper to cover the story. Eventually, the Justice Department initiated a probe surrounding Wright’s death and white supremacist activity in East Texas.
The results of different investigations led to a startling conclusion, Alfred Wright was leading a double life and was in fact a regular illicit drug user. While the country’s attention was focused on Ferguson and the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, an arrest was made in the investigation of Wright’s death. Police arrested Shane Hadnot a high school friend of Wright’s and charged him with two counts of drug related offenses that resulted in Wright’s death. It is alleged that Hadnot supplied drugs to Wright the night of his death and on previous occasions. There were a series of text messages between the pair that showed Wright purchased cocaine, methamphetamine and Xanax on a regular basis. Those three drugs were found in Wright’s body by the coroner. In addition, a separate autopsy by the family discovered anabolic steroids in the body. The mutilated condition of the body was determined to be caused by animal scavenging activity and self-inflicted injuries from Wright being entangled in barbwire during a possible drug induced psychosis.
However, the racial tensions remain in the area and at least one family member rejects the findings of the investigation. Alfred Wright’s sister, Kassilia Wright, posted the following comment on Facebook
“The true killers, slaughterers, lynchmen and henchman are walking free! Mr. Hadnot is merely being used as a scapegoat and an extensive and meticulous ploy to mask the truth.”
Wright’s father, Douglas Wright Sr. is also satisfied with the Justice Department’s findings and stated “How did drugs cut his throat? How did drugs take his tongue out? How did drugs cut his ears off?” But the Sheriff has spoken out now that the investigation is closed. Sheriff Tom Maddox stated, “His throat was not cut. His throat was not slashed. His tongue was not cut out, nothing of those things there that were said there happened. We have to go with not only what the original autopsy report said, but there was a lot of pathologists to look at this other than the original one, including some very renowned pathologists and all of them agree and concurred there with the original autopsy.”
Unfortunately, because of the racial climate in Sabine County, black residents are unable to fully accept the current version of events in the death of Alfred Wright.