SABINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Wednesday morning, the Sabine County District Attorney released a statement that said he has turned the ongoing Alfred Wright case over to the Texas Attorney General's Office.
"Due to the allegations against the sheriff, and to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I have been requested and have agreed to turn this case over to the Texas Attorney General's Office," Sabine County DA Kevin Dutton said in the press release. "I have requested that that office handle all further investigations and/or prosecutions concerning the Alfred Wright case."
In his statement Dutton said any further questions should be directed to the Texas Rangers or the Texas Attorney General's Office. He also said that it is his understanding that the investigation by the Texas Rangers is "substantially complete."
"In order to clarify many issues being publicized, I hereby authorize the Texas Rangers to release all materials and information found in their investigation to date," Dutton said.
Dutton's statements came on the heels of an announcement that the Justice Department will be investigating Wright's death. On Jan. 23, the Wright family attorney said they had met with Sheila Jackson Lee, a U.S. representative for the Houston area to address the concerns they had with the way the investigation was being handled by local law enforcement.
"My office welcomes the investigation by the Justice Department as there are serious allegations being made that need to be resolved," Dutton said.
In a previous East Texas News story, Cade Bersnen, the Wright family's attorney, pointed to the fact that Wright's truck still has not been searched by authorities. In addition, the people who found the Jasper man's body still have not been interviewed, he said. Plus, the last people who talked to Wright still haven't given formal statements, Bernsen said.
Those concerns prompted Lee to write a petition to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. In it, she expressed her interest in getting the federal government's help in investigating the mysterious disappearance and death of Wright.
In her letter to Holder, Lee stated that the fact that Wright's unclothed body had a slit throat, missing ear, and two missing teeth was "inconsistent" with the official autopsy report that ruled that his death was "accidental."
"What is so troubling to us: before the body was even found Sabine County sheriff was saying 'Oh I think this is a drug overdose,'" Bernsen said. "And the problem with that is they had nothing to base that on."
An autopsy report on Wright issued in early January listed the 28-year-old Jasper man's cause of death as "Combined drug intoxication" and stated that his death was an accident.
Family members and friends found Wright's body in a wooded area of Sabine County on Nov. 25. The discovery came 18 days after the Jasper man was last seen alive in Hemphill. Despite the fact that authorities mounted ground and air searches for Wright, his body was found about approximately 25 yards from where he disappeared.
East Texas News obtained a copy of the autopsy report prepared by Dr. John W. Ralston, a forensic pathologist with Forensic Medical Management Services of Texas' Beaumont office. The autopsy was performed on Nov. 26, 2013.
Under the Pathological Diagnoses section of the report, the pathologist listed "combined drug intoxication, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine." Ralston's report also stated that Wright's body had shallow puncture wounds to the abdomen, left thigh, left lower leg, and palm of the left hand.
In addition, the report stated there was no evidence of severe trauma.
Not long after East Texas News published the findings from the autopsy report, Wright's family issued a statement via their attorneys.
"Prior to Alfred Wright's body being found by family, local members of law enforcement were quick to conclude that no foul play was involved," the press release stated. "Unfortunately, the release of a premature first page of what appears to be an autopsy report is nothing more than a self-serving continuance of that rhetoric."
The press release also asked why the autopsy report was released before "the conclusion of way the Texas Rangers described as the 'questionable death' of Alfred Wright in a press release dated December 27."
"The Texas Rangers have explained to the Wright family that their agency has not yet reached a conclusion, and as a result, the contents of this incomplete report and specifically the manner of death is not being endorsed by their agency," the press release stated.
In addition, the attorneys for Wright's family members pointed out that the forensic pathologist hired to do a second autopsy is still waiting to be allowed access to photographs from the first autopsy.
"The presence of drugs in Alfred's system fails to explain the very apparent signs of severe trauma found on his body," the press release stated.