Despite the strange circumstances, and the trail of clothes and belongings around the pasture, Maddox said nothing suggested foul play, just “red flags.” Alfred’s truck still hadn’t been searched, nor had any family members been asked for sworn statements.
So on the 18th day after the disappearance, Alfred’s family and friends from Jasper took up the job, combing private land adjacent to the site of the official search, which the owner said had never been inspected.
These were the same woods volunteers had combed a decade earlier, after the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up in the sky over Texas—a museum in Hemphill memorializes the tragedy.
A fruitless search for Wright, led by the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office, had penetrated nearby woods just two weeks prior.
The family home was little more than a big shack, with a leaky roof and holes in the floor. But the household was a nearly self-sustaining operation, raising farm animals and growing hay, cucumbers, peppers and cotton.
Three hours in, a strong wind blew past one of the team leaders, an ex-Marine from Jasper named Yahtorah Kupenda, and with it came an unmistakable scent.
“You could smell death in the woods,” he said later.
Wright’s family and friends, along with a growing number of local residents, said the search wouldn’t have been abandoned so soon if the missing man weren’t black, but Sheriff Tom Maddox promised his investigation would continue after the ground search ended.
Weeks later, the sheriff had said little about the case.Teachers explained that the white students were smarter than he was, and for four years, Wright and his sisters were the only black students in school.