For husband of Durham homicide victim, life remains 'empty'

jwise@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2013 

In Harold Wright’s home, almost everything is as it was the day his wife was killed.

In Harold Wright’s life, it’s a different story.

Wright’s wife, Naomi, was shot to death March 23, 2012, during a holdup at the J.T. Tire Co. in Durham. Disabled since 2003, his eyesight too poor to drive, Wright, 64, spends his days at home amid reminders of his wife and bills he cannot pay.

“It’s about to drive me insane,” he said. “How much more can I take?”

To get by, Wright said, he gets about $760 a month for disability, $16 a month in food stamps and just enough from his wife’s Social Security to put him over the limit for receiving Medicaid. His daughter, JoAnna, 27, lives with him and, together, “We were making it,” he said.

Then, on March 28, JoAnna lost her job and she hasn’t found work since. She’s also been in the hospital twice in the past two weeks, with an ulcer “almost as big around as her stomach,” Wright said.

Wright was a self-employed painting contractor until he was disabled by cancer 10 years ago. He’s diabetic, he said, has had a liver transplant, multiple heart attacks, his gallbladder removed and three operations on his eyes. He said he’s hoping cataract surgery will improve his vision enough to get a driver’s license.

“That’s the situation. Wife been murdered, daughter fired, sitting here with nothing,” he said, sitting in the living room of his home in northern Durham. “Worried to death about how you’re going to pay the light bill, the water bill ... just one thing after another.

“I don’t want to beg or nothing like that ... but I tell you we just need help.”

Relatives and a neighbor help with groceries as they can, he said. Church friends call to make sure he’s all right. But, “It’s awful to live in this situation.”

Helping out with household bills was the reason Naomi Wright was working at the tire shop where a .45 bullet went into her heart.

Sheriff’s deputies charged Obrian McNeil White, now 25, with Naomi White’s death, as well as that of Abdelgadir Mergany Abdelganir, 32, a cab driver who was having a tire changed. Two other men were wounded and shop owner John Turner injured when they were shot by the robber’s gun. The robber got away with about $3,000.

“Cold-blooded murder. Cold-blooded murder. Didn’t care about nobody’s life. No reason to do any of that. He could have just held the gun and got the money,” Wright said. White remains in the Durham County Jail under a $3 million bond, with his next court date Aug. 5 according to the Durham Superior Court calendar.

“God, it’s going to be hard to go to that trial,” Wright said. “The district attorneys definitely wanted us there. But me and JoAnna ... neither one of us wants to see him and neither one of us want to go through it.”

Naomi Wright’s clothes still hang in her closet. A miniature Christmas village stands on a table and porcelain figurines cover shelves and surfaces in the living and dining rooms. Wright said he thought about packing them all up, but JoAnna stopped him – she doesn’t want anything moved.

‘Nobody can replace her’

Harold and Naomi Wright knew each other for 45 years and were married 34 years. They met, and first dated, when they were both working at the old Thalhimer’s department store downtown. Their first date was to church. Naomi was a devout Christian, her husband said, and played organ at Tabernacle of Life on Sovereign Street for 45 years.

“Oh, God, she could tear that organ up. Play that organ like you ain’t ever seen. Nobody can replace her in church, nobody,” he said. “Even her good Christian life is missed. Her presence is missed at church.”

Testimony to her presence remains on the church’s Facebook page ( on.fb.me/12nm6Qd) and the memorial guestbook of Hall-Wynne Funeral Home ( bit.ly/fFdOEs). After her death, a Durham Ruritan Club hosted a benefit dinner to help with funeral costs and Harold Wright’s medical expenses.

“They could see what was inside of her, it was God inside of her,” Wright said. “I walked the floor for three days and three nights, crying, I just couldn’t believe she was gone. Still can’t believe she was gone. I look for her to come in the door, any time.

“But I can’t bring her back.”

So Harold Wright spends his days sitting, remembering and worrying, another victim of the shootings at J.T. Tire.

“I just exist. I just move. I feel so empty,” he said. “Unless you’ve been through it you don’t know what it’s like. To love somebody for 45 years with all your heart and then lose them. They’re gone, gone out of your life. It’s such a – there’s no words to express it. I still cry, when I go to bed at night I cry. If I dream about her, I cry.

“Nothing’s been moved and I just look at it and I think, ‘Oh my God I wish you were here.’ ”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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