JASPER, Texas -- Alfred Wright was a husband, a father and a son.
“To know him was to love him,” said Lauren Wright, Alfred’s wife.
“You would have to know him to know his character and personality,” said Douglas Wright, Aflred’s father.
Neither of them had any way of anticipating the events that would one day thrust Wright, his family, and the small city of Jasper into the national spot light.
“I believe he was murdered and only God from Heaven could come down and tell me he wasn’t,” said Douglas.
The accounts of what took place last November have been well documented. Wright, a physical therapist, was on his way to treat a patient when his truck broke down near a convenience store just outside of Hemphill. That’s when he called his wife for help.
“He said he was having truck problems and that someone needed to come and get him,” said Lauren.
His parents agreed to pick him up. Several minutes later, Wright’s wife called him back on the phone.
“And that’s when I heard the heavy breathing, the respiratory distress of some kind," said Lauren. "It was very heavy breathing and I just could sense that something wasn’t right.”
When Wright’s parents showed up, they only saw his parked truck. But the 28-year-old was missing. The Sabine County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search. After four days, it was called off. The family questions how hard deputies looked. But those closest to Wright continued to comb through the nearby woods for the next two and a half weeks.
Wrights friends and family members located his body on a cold wet day. It was found lying face down in the woods about a mile and a half from the convenience store where his truck broke down.
An initial official autopsy ordered by the county attributed his death to lethal amounts of meth, cocaine and amphetamines found in his system. But the family sent the remains to Houston for a second autopsy which found the body was missing an ear, the tongue and had a throat that appeared to have been slashed. They insist Wright would never have abused drugs.
“I know my husband was killed by somebody,” said Lauren. “There’s no question in my mind.”
Family members remain skeptical of authorities in part because of what happened in Jasper in 1998, when three white men in a pickup truck dragged a black man to his death.
“We found the body,” said Douglas. “The sheriff has never asked us any questions. The Texas Rangers haven’t asked us any questions. We found the body.”
Wright’s wife also expressed skepticism.
“I think we all question the motives,” said Lauren. “Do they know something that we don’t know? Are they trying to cover it up for somebody? We don’t know.”
This week, the US Justice Department moved to take over the investigation. Calls to the Sabine County Sheriff and the Texas Ranger’s Office were not returned.
“None of us will stop until we find out who did it and why they did it and see that justice is served,” said Lauren.