Police arrested Christopher Glen Wright early Tuesday morning on suspicion of first-degree murder.
‘If you wanted to kill somebody, you should have killed your damn self,’ one victim’s sister says
A former Phoenix police officer who killed his wife and a motorist near Loop 202 last summer was sentenced Friday to two consecutive terms of natural life in prison.
Christopher Glen Wright, 39, opened fire on his wife, Nasbah Laverne Wright, and Tomas Olives Ornelas after Wright crashed a vehicle along the highway near the entrance-exit roundabout at McKellips Road.
Wright told Mesa police he was in the throes of a cocaine binge May 31, 2016, when he attempted to kill his wife by wrecking their Range Rover in the early-morning hours after an argument in which he insisted she’d cheated on him.
Tests detected no cocaine, but Wright did have traces of marijuana, Tramadol, Zoloft and Trazodone in his system the night of the incident, records said.
Wright, who pleaded guilty in February to two counts first-degree murder, initially told police he’d “do it all again,” according to court records.
Wright, 39, said he had spent the past 11 months “reflecting on all the lives I’ve caused so much pain.”
Linked by tragedy, Nasbah’s and Ornelas’ families spoke of how their lives were affected by the abrupt, brutal loss of life.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Erin O’Brien Otis said the testimonials gave greater insight to Nasbah’s dedication to her family and to Ornelas’ caring nature.
Mental health concerned wife
Wright’s attorneys on Friday spoke briefly about his struggles with mental illness, which initially prevented Wright from understanding the severity of his crimes.
Wright was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004 and continued to serve in the reserves until 2008. Court records state he experienced trauma from deployments and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to depression and anxiety.
He worked as a police officer with the the Phoenix Police Department for nearly two years until he was forced to resign after officers found him illegally possessing and using marijuana after a domestic-violence incident with a live-in girlfriend, according to court records.
Wright and Nasbah married in 2009 and the couple worked together at a residential facility for at-risk youth when he began falling into psychotic episodes, court records said.
Court records indicate that Wright would become paranoid and fall into manic or erratic episodes that concerned his wife. In some instances, he alleged she was working for the CIA or that he was being followed by white supremacists.
Shortly before her death, Nasbah messaged a family member that Wright was “having another one of his paranoia days,” according to court records.
“When he is Manic like this and angry, it’s a bad combination. He paces and paces till he forms blisters on his feet. He’s a lil nuts right now,” she wrote in a message. “He always thinks someone’s gonna get him.”
In the message, Nasbah mentioned she’d been slapped by Wright the previous day and did not want him to “flip out on me.”
One of Nasbah’s friends, Nicole Jacobs, spoke in court, describing her as an elegant, infectious and beautiful woman who was “hiding a monster at home.”
“This woman, who was so full of life, was hiding her pain so well — too well,” Jacobs said. “She loved him through his problems and issues. Nasbah was loving and patient. She died loving Chris.”
A call to 911 for help
Court records state Nasbah, 41, called Mesa police at 3:06 a.m. while trying to prevent Wright from taking her vehicle, but the call was cut off. A dispatcher reconnected with Nasbah, who said she was in the car with her husband before it disconnected again.
An officer arrived at the Wright house near Ellsworth and McDowell roads at about 3:20 a.m. but found it empty.
Court records say Wright told investigators that he and his wife opted to “take a drive” and he became more upset as she called 911.
In her final call about 3:30 a.m., Nasbah told authorities that her husband was going to shoot her with his rifle and told them their location in east Mesa, records said.
“The woman could be heard yelling at someone to stop as numerous gunshots began, and she then went quiet as the shots continued,” court records state.
Wright said he traveled at speeds over 100 mph and hit a curb to crash the Range Rover.
Ornelas, 49, who was on his way to work at a nearby construction site, stopped his truck to assist.
Nasbah attempted to run toward Ornelas for help but Wright pulled out the rifle and shot Ornelas, then turned the gun on his wife, court records state.
Officers arriving at the scene could hear yelling before gunshots rang out. Christopher Wright subsequently surrendered to Mesa police by lying on the ground without being commanded after he initially attempted to flee on foot, records state.
Nasbash was found dead next to the passenger door of the vehicle and Ornelas was found next to his driver’s door with multiple gunshot wounds.
Ornelas was transported to HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
Families remember victims
Prosecutor Susie Charbel called several family members and friends of the victims to address the court on the impact of Wright’s actions.
Ornelas was described by family members as a hard-working individual whose action of stopping his car after seeing the wrecked Range Rover was not uncharacteristic.
“They described a man who died doing the thing he was known to be — and that’s caring. He was trying to help your wife as it looked like she’d been in a car accident and he died in an act of being a good bystander,” Judge Otis said.
Wright’s family did not speak at the sentencing but offered their sympathy to the victims’ families.
Across the gallery, Nasbah’s family members filed to the lectern to address Wright, with many looking at him directly as he sat with his attorneys.
Michelle Hunt, Nasbah’s sister, said her family embraced Wright and loved him, as they were unaware of her sister’s situation.
“We would talk and text all the time but she never told us the nightmare she was living,” she said. “… It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”
“If you wanted to kill somebody, you should have killed your damn self and not killed her,” Hunt said. “… I can’t forgive what Chris did, but in the end he’s going to atone to a higher power than in this room.”
Lucille Hunt, Nasbah’s mother, said she was devastated that her daughter would never be able to experience teaching her grandchildren or make meals or laugh together.
“The death of a child breaks a mother’s heart,” she said.
“I am honestly so tired of hearing you had done these things. I cannot believe it sometimes that you’re the one,” Lucille Hunt said, turning to Wright.
Charbel said offering Wright the opportunity of life imprisonment was mercy that he did not grant Nasbah or Ornelas.
Gesturing toward Wright and his emotional family members on the right side of the gallery, Otis said they at least had the opportunity to talk to him, even if it was behind bars.
“The thing that separates you from Tomas and Nasbah’s family is that you’re here and you’re not going anywhere,” Otis said.
“(Your family) can have conversations with you and some type of meaningful interaction and Tomas and Nasbah’s family will never have that.”
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