Mississippi Exhumes Dexter Wade’s Remains, Adding To Earlier Missteps, His Family Says

Jackson authorities buried Wade in a pauper’s grave after failing for months to notify his family of his death.

Jackson, Miss., officials exhumed Dexter Wade’s remains from a pauper’s grave Monday (Nov. 13), heaping more turmoil on his family.

According to the city, an off-duty officer struck and killed Wade, 37, while Wade was walking along a six-lane highway in March, ruling that it was an accident. But they failed to notify his family of his death for several months and decided to bury him in a cemetery near the Hinds County Penal Farm. 

The Associated Press reports that family members and their supporters wanted to observe the exhumation, but his family said county officials failed to honor the agreed-upon time. 

In a letter, Hinds County Board Attorney Tony Gaylor told a lawyer for Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, that the exhumation was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. 

But Rev. Ronald Moore of Stronger Hope Baptist Church said officials at the cemetery told him Wade’s remains were already removed when he arrived at around 10:30 a.m. 

Then he was told the body still might be there. In the end, the family and supporters saw Wade’s body hours later, after the exhumation.

“They put him in the ground without my permission. They dug him up without my permission,” Bettersten Wade said, according to the AP.

The family retained civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who announced on Oct. 31 that he would seek a federal investigation, saying, “The family does not have trust in the Mississippi officials.”

At a news conference on Monday (Nov. 13), Crump said the family hired an independent medical examiner to perform an autopsy. 

How A Jackson, Miss., Mother Learned Her Missing Son Was Buried In An Unmarked Grave After A Police Blunder

Wade died on March 5. His mother reported him missing on March 14, but the police didn’t notify her of his death until Aug. 24 and took her to his pauper’s gravesite in early October.

According to the city, police investigators could not identify Wade after the accident because he didn’t have any identification. However, a Hinds County Coroner's Office investigator identified Wade from a medical prescription bottle in his pocket. But the contact information obtained from the medical provider’s office was outdated.

NBC News reported previously that coroner’s investigator LaGrand Elliot said he confirmed Wade’s identification on March 9, when the state crime lab said his fingerprints matched those it had on file for Wade. He passed all the information he gathered to the Jackson Police Department’s accident investigation unit in March so it could notify Wade’s mother.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has blamed miscommunication for not notifying Wade’s family promptly, saying that “there was no malicious intent.”

But the situation is complicated, leaving Bettersten Wade to wonder if her son’s death was “a vendetta.”

NBC News reported that Wade’s family is in the middle of a lawsuit involving the city over the police fatal beating of Bettersten Wade’s brother in 2019. The city has denied the allegations, saying it isn’t liable.

“It’s a low-down dirty shame what happened today,” Crump said at the news conference. “What happened to Dexter Wade in March and what happened to Dexter Wade here today reeks to the high heavens.”

The family has planned a funeral for Wade on Nov. 20.

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