HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – A Mississippi man who died after being struck by a police SUV was buried in a pauper’s cemetery without his family’s knowledge – despite having his state identification card in his pocket, civil rights attorney Ben Crump alleged Thursday.
Crump claimed that the exhumation of Dexter Wade’s body and discovery of the ID, which had his home address on it, as well as a credit card and health insurance card, indicates a serious effort to cover up how Wade died.
Crump confirmed to The Associated Press that the address on the ID card matched the address of Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, who said she didn’t learn of her son’s death until months after he was buried.
Wade, 37, died March 5 after he was hit by a Jackson Police Department vehicle driven by an off-duty officer.
For months, family members tried to locate him, even filing a missing person’s report a few days after he disappeared. His mother, Bettersten Wade, said she did not know that he was deceased until August 24, when she learned that he had been killed by a Jackson Police Department vehicle while crossing Interstate 55.
In an October address, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city’s failure to notify Wade’s next of kin resulted from a miscommunication and that there was no malicious intent.
On Thursday, Crump also discussed the results of the autopsy.
According to information provided to Crump by Pathologist Dr. Frank Peretti, Wade’s body had not been embalmed and was in an advanced state of decomposition.
Peretti reported Wade’s body had multiple blunt force injuries to the skull, ribs, and pelvis. His left leg was amputated, and his body had been run over by a vehicle.
Crump said there was a wallet in the front pocket of Wade’s jeans that contained his state identification card with is home address, his credit card and a health insurance card.
“The tragic news we received from the independent pathologist today was heartbreaking for everyone who knew and cared for Dexter Wade, especially his mother. The fact that Dexter had a state identification card and several other identifying items shows us that there was a concerted effort to keep the truth and manner of his death from his family. There is no excuse, not even incompetence, for not notifying a next of kin of an identified man’s death,” said Crump.
According to Crump, an investigator from the coroner’s office identified Dexter using fingerprints and reportedly turned it over to Jackson police to do the proper death notification on March 9.
An investigator from the Hinds County coroner’s office responded to the accident scene but did not find any identification while examining Wade’s body, NBC News reported. The coroner did find a bottle of prescription medication in his pocket with his name on it.
The attorney said a full autopsy report is expected soon.
Wade’s family and attorneys successfully lobbied to have his body exhumed from the pauper’s field in Hinds County on Monday, November 13, but the exhumation took place hours before county officials said it would.
A funeral for Wade is expected to be held on November 20.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.