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Police report says Wright shot to death

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former NBA big man Lorenzen Wright, whose body was found in the woods outside Memphis, was shot to death and the case is being investigated as a homicide, police said Thursday.

Police wouldn’t answer questions about motive or suspects. But records indicate that Wright, 34, revered in his hometown as a generous and likable sports hero, was probably carrying a large amount of cash when he disappeared on July 18. A court affidavit obtained by The Associated Press also said Wright had sold two vehicles to a man affiliated with a Memphis drug ring that’s suspected in six deaths.

His family filed a missing person report with police on July 22, four days after he was last seen, but investigators repeatedly said they didn’t suspect foul play. Wright’s mother said in the report that she was worried because his silence was out of character and “he probably has a large amount of cash on him.”

The report said that the day he disappeared, he had been dropped off at a restaurant by a woman and later taken to his ex-wife’s house in Collierville, a Memphis suburb. The ex-wife, Sherra Wright, told officers that Wright left her home in the middle of the night with someone.

Family members said Wright’s body was found near an apartment complex in southeast Memphis on Wednesday, but police awaited dental records to confirm his identity. Police on Thursday said a 911 call was placed from Wright’s cell phone early on July 19 and investigators determined it came from the area his body was found.

Court documents show that Wright acknowledged to the FBI that in 2008 he sold two luxury vehicles, a Mercedes sedan and a Cadillac SUV, to Bobby Cole. The affidavits about the business deal don’t show if Wright knew that Cole had been indicted in 2007 on drug distribution charges or if they knew each other.

Cole told the FBI he was connected to the organization run by Craig Petties, an accused drug kingpin charged with racketeering and conspiracy in six murders.

In 2008, Cole offered to turn over to Drug Enforcement Administration agents three vehicles he bought with drug money, including a 2007 Cadillac Escalade SUV and a 2008 Mercedes Benz S63 that had been registered to Wright.