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Amy Wright’s struggle comes to an end

©The Herald-Gazette/ This information may not be reprinted, broadcast or distributed electronically in any form or fashion without express consent. For reprint permission, e-mail By Walter Geiger Amy Johanna Wright died Christmas Eve, bringing to a close a long, sad saga which began in February 1994. Wright, who was 22 at the time, apparently resisted advances made by 19-year-old Jamie Smith at a home at 178 Crowder Street where Wright lived with a roommate. Smith beat and strangled Wright in an upstairs bedroom and apparently thought she was dead. Smith then went downstairs and made a videotape, confessing to murder. On the tape, Smith said, ‘I’ll never see her again. She’s an angel and she’s going to heaven. I’m going to hell.’ Smith then went back upstairs, drank bleach and cut his wrists in an effort to commit suicide. When those methods failed, he went downstairs and got a .22 caliber pistol from his bag, returned to the bed and shot himself in the head. His body was found tied to Wright’s with a karate belt or bath robe sash. Wright laid in bed with Smith’s body for about seven hours until the roommate returned. She suffered from oxygen deprivation and never regained consciousness. Ironically, the case was worked by deputy coroner and Barnesville police officer Beth Tessmer, who is serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of her husband in a domestic dispute. Wright, a route driver for Flowers Bakery, met Smith at the Burger King in Jackson where he worked. The restaurant was on her bread route. Wright spent much of the past 18 years at Heritage Inn nursing home where her parents, Jimmy and Charlotte Wright, were omnipresent. ’At least one of them was there for all that time. It was their love and dedication that cared for her, keeping her in good physical condition until about two years ago when her body began breaking down,’ noted Wright’s sister Lisa Caldwell. Carol Milam Pegram, Wright’s best friend in high school, also praised the dedication of Jimmy and Charlotte Wright. ’They are exactly like all parents should be. Their lives basically stopped when this happened to Amy. They were at her bedside every day. Every time I came to town, no matter when it was, I made it a point to go see Amy. They never knew I was coming but they were always there no matter when I showed up,’ Pegram said. Pegram said she and Wright, who was the LCCHS homecoming queen and graduated in 1989, went to summer camp together and that Wright dated her seventh grade boyfriend, Keith Johnson, all through high school. ’She was always spending the night at my house. We would spend the night at her sister Tammy’s house. She loved animals. She had a bird and a dog. Tammy had a cat that she loved. She was a bridesmaid at my first wedding,’ Pegram added. Coroner Jim Smith, who worked the original crime scene, said he, too, visited Wright periodically at the nursing home and always found one or both of her parents there. ‘This case has always bothered me. She suffered and her family suffered for so long,’ the coroner said. Pegram still has her high school yearbooks, one of which Wright signed BFFAA – best friends forever and always. When Lisa Caldwell called her Christmas Day to tell her of Wright’s death, Pegram told her husband ‘I have to go’ and drove nine hours to Barnesville for the funeral. ’It was like the crime had happened all over again,’ she lamented. Funeral services for Amy Johanna Wright were held Dec. 28 at Williams Funeral Home. Amy Wright clarification The family of Amy Johanna Wright, who died Christmas eve nearly 18 years after she was savagely attacked, wants to clarify that Amy was not kept alive by artificial means. ”Amy was never resuscitated. No life-saving measures were ever taken. She regained consciousness and looked around but she never spoke. She recognized my mama and daddy. You could see it in her face.There were never any life support measures taken. We grieved originally because we lost the Amy we knew. Then, when she died, we grieved all over again,” Amy’s sister Lisa Caldwell said.

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