A letter from a Mississippi county lawyer confirms that the family of a man killed by police and secretly buried was lied to about when the 37-year-old Black man’s body would be exhumed.
Dexter Wade was killed after an off-duty officer struck him with a car back in March. Hinds County took it upon itself to bury him without notifying his family, who only found out last month about the death that was kept secret. Now, after a date and time were set to conduct the exhumation, Wade’s family arrived at the grave to find that their loved one’s body had already been secretly dug up and was in possession of the county, delaying a planned autopsy and funeral.
The entire ongoing incident reeks of a “coverup,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Wade’s family.
Crump’s office emailed NewsOne a copy of the letter that Hinds County Board Attorney Tony R. Gaylor sent one week ago to Dennis Sweet, another attorney working on behalf of Wade’s family.
In the letter, printed on Hinds County stationery and dated Nov. 7, Gaylor writes to Sweet that the “Hinds County Board of Supervisors voted [last week] to release the remains of Mr. Dexter Wade to his family.” The letter clearly stated that the “exhuming will take place on Monday, November 13, 2023 at 11:30 a.m.”
Gaylor concluded the letter by saying “Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Wade at this time.”
Read the letter below:
As it turns out, both the scheduling of the exhumation and the condolences were false since Hinds County – after secretly burying Wade – then secretly dug him up hours before its own stated time when it was going to take place.
Instead, county officials exhumed Wade without the family present at 8 a.m., Crump said Monday.
“This is further evidence of a coverup,” Crump said about the pre-emptive exhumation. “Like a thief in the night, they came and took the body out of the ground.”
In a statement sent to NewsOne, Crump said Monday’s developments have left Wade’s mother “with more questions and even more trauma”:
“Since the day that Dexter Wade was struck and killed by a Jackson Police Department cruiser, the truth and facts of this case have been heavily obscured. Dexter’s mother did not know what happened to her son for months, even after her tireless efforts and multiple requests to officials to help her and long after he had been identified. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we will keep fighting for justice in Dexter’s name until his mother gets the closure she deserves.”
Wade’s mother said this is now two times that the county has lied to her about her son.
“They put him in the ground without my permission. They dug him up without my permission — I want that to be known,” Bettersten Wade Robinson said during a press conference.
WAPT reported that Wade’s body “will be returned to his family,” but it was unclear when that would happen and why the county conducted the exhumation without Wade’s family.
A GoFundMe account created nearly a month ago by Wade’s mother to raise money to help pay for her son’s funeral and autopsy has only raised a little more than $15,000 of its $100,000 goal.
“Dexter deserved so much more than being buried in a pauper field grave for the unknown,” Bettersten Wade wrote on the GoFundMe page. “He was a beloved son, father, nephew, and community member who deserved to be treated with love and care and given a proper resting place. Thank you so much for supporting this effort and my family as we deal with the trauma the police have caused us.”
According to NBC News, Bettersten Wade last saw her son on March 5.
A week later, she reported him missing to the Jackson police and then followed up for months. She called missing persons investigators seeking information on numerous occasions, posted appeals on Facebook, searched abandoned houses and asked neighbors for help.
On Aug. 24, a Jackson accident investigator told Bettersten Wade about her son’s death, more than six months after she reported him missing the first time. The accident investigator told her Wade had died the night he left home, struck by a police cruiser while crossing a nearby highway, which was later confirmed by the Hinds County coroner’s office.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Dexter Wade’s death and the subsequent lack of communication with his family “honestly was an unfortunate and tragic accident.”
“It is tragic to lose your child,” Lumumba said during his annual State of the City speech late last month. “It is tragic to suffer the consequences of having to bury your child before you pass. But to add insult to that trauma, it is even more difficult to not have the ability to have a proper burial for your child. And for that, we regret a circumstance that Mr. Wade’s family has had to deal with.”
Bettersten Wade and Crump have accused the Jackson Police Department of having a vendetta against her family because of a 2019 case where Bettersten Wade’s 62-year-old brother died after a Jackson officer slammed him to the ground. The officer involved was convicted of manslaughter but is appealing the verdict.
“It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Crump said. “That’s why people all over America are talking about what happened to Dexter Wade in Jackson, Mississippi. We are asking for the Department of Justice to investigate this matter because the family does not have trust in the Mississippi officials. Would you after this happened to your brother and child?”
Crump has called for a Department of Justice investigation into the death.
To donate to Dexter Wade’s GoFundMe account, click here.
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