HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) - ?
For nearly a year, answers were hard to come by in the death of Alfred Wright, especially from Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox.
The lead lawman in the East Texas county remained tight-lipped about the investigation, until now.
"The most difficult thing was not being able to release the information there to the public that we would've liked to have released due to it being a pending investigation," said Tom Maddox.
Wright went missing on Nov. 7, 2013. On that day, he pulled into the CL&M grocery store along State Highway 87 in Hemphill. When his truck broke down, he made a call to his wife at 6:05 p.m. Several days later, pieces of Wright's clothing were found on private land near his disappearance site.
Family members and friends found Wright's body in a wooded area of Sabine County on Nov. 25. Despite the fact that authorities mounted ground and air searches for Wright, his body was found about approximately 25 yards from where he disappeared.
Yet, Maddox said some of those details are not true.
"It was probably about 400 or 500 yards there from where our original command post was. Now, it was probably still about 200 or 250 yards back there into where he was found," said Maddox. "You know, a lot of the news footage showed this as being a clean area. The areas that we were searching were not clean. You know, that was some of the toughest searching there that you would do. The brush was so thick there that there were only two ways that you were going to find a person. That was either to step on him, or to smell him."
On August 6, Shane Hadnot, 28, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, and Maddox said there was substantial evidence pointing towards Hadnot.
"Everything there matched perfectly. To exactly what the eye witness stated there that [Alfred] took his cell phone and put it in his sock and ran up the road. And after he kept running, you know, we found all of the clothing except for the ones there that he had on. So, it perfectly matched what the investigation showed," said Maddox.
In a press release, it was revealed that two days before Wright's death, he exchanged 20 text messages and 35 phone calls with Hadnot to discuss the purchase of cocaine and other drugs. Despite the evidence, the Wright's said they believe their son was murdered by another party.
The family held a protest in downtown Houston on August 8 to voice their concerns about the recent Department of Justice reveal that Wright's death was an accidental drug overdose.
"How did drugs cut his throat? How did drugs take his tongue out? How did drugs cut his ears off?" said Douglas Wright Sr.
An autopsy and toxicology report performed on Wright's body revealed cocaine, methamphetamine and Xanax in his blood stream. During an early morning press conference in Beaumont, Bales revealed information about the trauma on Wright's body. According to the federal indictment, Dr. Ralston, a forensic pathologist with the STFC in Beaumont, found six shallow puncture wounds on Wright's body.
"His throat was not cut. His throat was not slashed. His tongue was not cut out--nothing of those things there that were said there happened. We have to go with not only what the original autopsy report said, but there was a lot of pathologists to look at this other than the original one, including some very renowned pathologists and all of them agree and concurred there with the original autopsy," said Maddox.
Since day one, there have been a handful of discrepancies in the investigation, including the allegation that the sheriff's department had never checked Wright's truck for evidence.
"There was no reason for us to take it. First of all, we informed the family not to enter the truck without us being there and all of the sudden we got a call there that the family was down there and the family was going through the truck. At that particular point, all evidentiary value was gone," said Maddox.
On Feb. 21, a heated protest between the New Black Panther Party leader, Quanell X, and a Hemphill resident alleged that Wright might have been having an affair with the resident's daughter, or the daughter of a member of the sheriff's department.
"I want to tell you, and let me, I'll touch on that briefly. There is no member of my family there that has ever met Alfred Wright or knew Alfred Wright or anyone there in the sheriff's office there that knew Alfred Wright," said Maddox. "I mean, we never had met him. First of all, Mr. Wright was from Jasper. This is Sabine County."
In a CNN report, it was mentioned that a dime had been found by Wright's body, which they alluded to as a symbol of possible gang activity.
"First of all, a lot of people walked by there that day. I mean, a ton of people walked through there that particular day that the body was found. A lot of people before the officers got there had gone through there," said Maddox. "All the searches had gone through there and they even walked the same trail there, and nobody saw that coin. It was fond there by one of the searchers there that actually came upon the body, but it was not located by the body. It was located a considerable distance from the body."
During the Houston protest, Wright's parents said they were still upset with the fact that Texas Ranger Danny Young had been apart of the investigation. They said they had been asking for Young to be taken off the case since day one.
"It's been festering since November 7th, and it festered...over in Beaumont, Texas with [U.S. Attorney John M. Bale]. They have not investigated anything. My son's truck is still parked in my garage. No one ever looked at it," said Wright's father, Douglas Wright Sr. "There's something wrong with Sheriff [Tom] Maddox. There's something wrong with Hemphill law enforcement. There's something wrong with the Texas Rangers--Danny Young. I'm going to call the name. There's something wrong with Danny Young."
Despite the plea, Maddox said he never received a formal request for Young to be taken off the case.
"We requested the rangers there to assist in the investigation, and Danny Young, we were working with him on a daily basis. He did a great job and always does a great job. I can think of no other person there that I would want helping me than him," said Maddox. "There never was a formal request given to us that they didn't want Danny Young out there."
If a request was given to the Texas Rangers, Maddox said, that is out of his hands. But, he said he doesn't want people to think that he gave up on the search for Wright
"We did everything humanly possible there to find Alfred Wright. We did everything that could've possibly done except find him. We never gave up on the search there for Alfred Wright," said Maddox. "The reason we stopped the [ground] search to begin with is because we covered all the initial ground that we could find and we could not find any evidence there of Mr. Wright other than where the dogs had trailed him over there to the creek."
He said they exhausted thousands of dollars on man power, flare units, helicopter searches, and canine units to find Wright.
"We actually had two big searches that were canceled because of inclement weather. You know, the weather there was so nasty and it was raining there so hard that you know, the last thing that we wanted to do was get someone severely injured or lost back in those woods in those conditions," said Maddox.
Several trained firefighting professionals, he said, had to give up on the investigation after a couple of days because the search was so physically exhausting.
"We never quit. Until the day there that he was found. Not only there did we have to--first of all, we did not know that Mr. Wright there was definitely still there," said Maddox. "Every indication there could have been 50/50, he was either there or he had left there. For a lot of reasons, we thought that he could've left the area."
As far as the accusations that he is using Hadnot as a scapegoat, Maddox said that is a conspiracy he doesn't want to dwell on.
"We are not using anyone as a scapegoat. Everything that we have done has been based on sound investigative practices. The autopsy report, the toxicology report, and you know eyewitness reports and countless thousands of questions there that had been asked of people or anyone who thought they had any knowledge of what would happen," said Maddox.
Despite the controversy and the discrepancies in this case, Maddox said he feels for the Wright family and believes Wright's death is a tragedy.
"Parents do not have a son today. I mean, a wife does not have a husband, and kids do not have a father. I mean that's the tragedy that ought to be reported here not because of some conspiracy and cover up because there wasn't," said Maddox. "Alfred Wright was apparently a very bright young man, had a great family, and a good job and I mean, you would think he was living the American dream. And yet, it all came to an end because of a drug overdose."