Justice Department investigating death of Texas man

9:11 AM, Mar 1, 2014   |    comments
This undated handout photo provided by the Wright Family shows Alfred Wright.
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(USA TODAY) The Justice Department is investigating the death of a young man in Texas reportedly found mutilated after he'd been missing for almost three weeks.

Volunteer searchers found the body of Alfred Wright, a 28-year-old physical therapist from Jasper, Texas, on Nov. 25 in a field 25 yards from the Sabine County, Texas, liquor store where he was last seen on Nov. 7. Searchers found him missing an ear and some teeth. His throat was slit. Some reports indicate both eyes also were gone.

An autopsy ruled the death of the married father as accidental and local authorities said it was drug related.

The Justice Department decided to take on the case under the request of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

In a three-page letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jackson Lee wrote that local law enforcement officials dropped the search after three days, and after finding articles of Wright's clothing. She also pointed out that Wright is from Jasper, a town also known for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd, a black man.

"This case appears to bear the indicia of a suspicious crime in which an African-American male is yet again the victim of an act of lethal violence," Jackson Lee wrote.

Wright was black.

"Despite credible and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, local law enforcement officials ruled the death ... as 'accidental' and ceased their investigation," the congresswoman wrote. "Equally troubling is the fact that one of the last persons to see Alfred Wright alive is a Sabine County law enforcement officer ... who, according to the Wright family, has yet to be questioned fully by investigators."

Sabine County, Texas, Sheriff Thomas Maddox could not be reached Friday night. Local officials have noted that Wright was facing charges of embezzlement dating back to his time as a college student in Tennessee. Maddox told KSLA that he did not suspect foul play.

Cade Bernsen, a lawyer for Alfred's Wright family, told KTRE that the family was "excited" about the Justice Department probe. "It's important to have some people who aren't from this area to take a look at it because there's just too many questions that remain unanswered," Bernsen told the news organization.

Neither the Justice Department nor Jackson Lee could be reached Friday night.

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