December 9, 2018

The Murder of Alfred Wright in Jasper, Texas

I am haunted by the death of Alfred Wright. The stories of his murder, and the mystery surrounding the details, have not received the attention it deserves. This young father of three was, in my opinion, lynched, and I am of the belief the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office knows who did it and is protecting the killers, who may include one of their own. Mr. Wright was murdered because he was black and we must demand answers.

Fifteen years ago James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in the same area. Three men, known white supremacists, dragged Mr. Bryd for three miles while he was chained to their truck. Mr. Byrd was conscious during the brutal killing and died when his head was severed. Once dead, the men dragged him another mile and dumped him in front of an African American cemetery. He was killed because he was black.

One of the men who murdered James Byrd, Jr. was executed, one remains on death row, and one is serving life. When Mr. Byrd died my son was 2 years old and I was shaken to my core. Today my son is 18 and again a man has been tortured and killed for being black. I know bad things happen everyday and I am not naïve enough to think this is isolated, but this is 2014 in America.

It is not enough to be angry in my small corner of the world. I have a voice and a platform, so for my son and the sons of Alfred Wright, I am writing.  I want these killers to be prosecuted. I want Alfred’s family to get answers. I want the killers to know we are watching and this man’s life and death will be remembered. Any rational human being can see this killing was racially motivated.

Alfred Wright, a physical therapist, was on his way home from work when he got a flat tire. He called his wife from his cell phone asking her to come get him. She was home with their children and said his parents would come. When they arrived they found his truck, but he was gone. His wife called him and could hear him breathing, clearly in distress. That was the last contact she had with her husband. It was Nov. 7, 2013.

The Sherriff’s department looked for Mr. Wright but called off the search after 4 days and the case was closed. Alfred’s parents continued to search on their own for their beloved son. 18 days later, and only 25 feet from where he was last seen, their own search party found Alfred’s body. He was wearing boxer shorts and socks. His cell phone safely tucked into his sock. The police ruled the case an accidental overdose.

Alfred Wright was not a drug user and it is important to note that after missing for almost 3 weeks, his body was not decomposed and he appeared to not have been deceased for that long. His throat was slashed, he was missing his front teeth, eyes, tongue, and part of his ear. (When lynching was a common occurrence in America, Klansmen would cut off the ears of the black men they killed as souvenirs.)

There were trace amounts of drugs found in Alfred’s body, which is why the Sherriff concluded drugs were the cause of death after the autopsy they had done. A second independent autopsy found Alfred’s eyes were gouged out, tongue was cut out, throat was slashed, teeth were knocked out, and his ear was cut off. This man was tortured and died a horrific death, then left where he was taken from like an animal. Why?

Why didn’t the authorities interview Alfred’s family? Why did the original autopsy rule out homicide and not reveal the severe trauma suffered? Why have the original autopsy photos not been shared with the doctor who did the independent autopsy? There are countless unanswered questions. This man was murdered and law enforcement did not and is not doing their job properly.

I am Jewish and know the history of hate towards my people.  I am educated on the Holocaust and the history of blacks in America. A part of me is scared writing this article as hate doesn't like when you disagree with it. There is also a part of me that knows when we don’t speak out against atrocities we give hate power. I am scared but my heart must embrace my mind and speak out for Mr. Wright because he can’t.

There are people who speculate the Sherriff is involved. Some say Mr. Wright had a relationship with the Sherriff’s daughter. Some say his family did not know about his drug use. The truth is I do not know many things about the case and what I do know is simply from different news sources and other writers. What I do know is that an accidental drug overdose does not cause the damage that was done to this young man.

Alfred Wright was tortured, mutilated, and discarded as if he had no value. He had his life and dignity taken away because he was a man of color. His kids will grow up without a father. His wife will have to explain hate to her children. His parents have buried their baby. His siblings have lost part of themselves. There are people in Jasper that know who did this but they remain silent 

Today I am thinking about Alfred, James Byrd, Jr., and the young Emmitt Till. I am thinking about the countless men and women of color who were killed in America because of hate. I am thinking about people in the world who at this exact moment are suffering because another human being hates them just because they are different from them in some way. I think of them now and I feel brave.

I feel brave enough to tell you that I believe Alfred Wright was murdered by stupid, cowardly, racist white men who are filled with hate. I feel brave and I feel proud. Proud to have raised my son to not see color, judge faith, or value a person based on beauty or wealth. My heart is broken and my faith is shaken but I will not be silent.  We cannot make the world better if we turn away from the ugliness without speaking.

I know what hate looks like. People take time out of their busy lives quite often just to let me know they hate me. Some people hate me simply because I am Jewish. Others hate me for having an opinion, and many hate me for no other reason than somoene else told them to. Hate is a powerful force and while I like to think I handle it well and it does not effect me, the truth is that it truly shatters me.

To Alfred Wright, I want you to know that you have value and you matter. I pray you will rest in peace and I take comfort in knowing you will watch over your three beautiful sons. As human beings it is our responsibility to view more than just our own little corners of the world. We are all in this together and hate can be stopped if we speak up. Be aware, be brave, be strong, be kind, and remember to keep the faith.