Back in March, Jackson, Mississippi resident Bettersten Wade lost contact with her 37-year-old son, Dexter Wade, a father of two who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Bettersten spent 5 months searching frantically for her son while being told by law enforcement that there were no new developments in his case. She didn’t find out that her son had been killed after being hit by a police car until August and wasn’t able to visit Dexter in the unmarked grave he was buried in until October. Meanwhile, Dexter’s body had been identified—back in March. In other words: Authorities knew who Dexter was, where he was and that he was dead the entire time.
This needs to be NATIONAL FUCKIM NEWS. These people MURDERED her son by hitting him with a car … BURIED him without her knowledge and told her for MONTHS they knew nothing about him when they knew all along. Y’all. #betterstenwade #dexterwade #mississippi #jackson pic.twitter.com/CmXhed8I8Z
— (@shezsoambitious) October 25, 2023
Now, that Bettersten and Dexter’s story has drawn widespread attention and outrage, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has made his first public comments about the case. He did so during his annual State of the City speech.
“It is tragic to lose your child,” Lumumba said, according to NBC News. “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.” Lumumba also said Dexter’s death and the subsequent lack of communication with his family “honestly was an unfortunate and tragic accident.”
So, how exactly did a miscommunication that took 172 days to rectify even happen? Well, there have been plenty of excuses made and a lot of finger-pointing, but none of it appears to amount to anything besides cruel negligence and indifference to a Black family’s grief.
Wade, 37, was struck and killed by a police car driven by an off-duty Jackson officer just before 8 p.m. March 5, less than an hour after he left the home where he lived with his mother and sister about a mile away. A coroner’s investigator didn’t find an ID on his body but saw his name on a bottle of prescription pills in his pocket, according to records. The prescribing medical facility gave the coroner’s investigator Wade’s mother’s name and a phone number.
After having confirmed Wade’s identification through fingerprints, the coroner’s investigator said in his case notes that he shared the information with accident investigators so they could notify the family. The coroner’s investigator said he repeatedly asked police for updates on notification efforts but received none. On July 14, after Wade’s body had gone unclaimed in the county morgue for more than four months, he was buried in a pauper’s grave at the Hinds County penal farm.
Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, knew nothing about any of that. She reported her son missing to the Jackson Police Department on March 14 and spent the next several months asking missing persons investigators for updates, conducting her own search of her neighborhood and posting desperate appeals on Facebook.
She didn’t receive any news until Aug. 24, when an officer visited her and told her that Dexter had been killed by a police cruiser the night he left home. A Hinds County coroner’s investigator later told her where Dexter had been buried. Bettersten had to pay $250 to claim his body. In October, she finally was able to visit his grave, marked with just a number, 672. She is now trying to come up with the money to exhume him and transfer him to a proper gravesite.
Yes, you read that right. Bettersten had to pay to claim her son’s body, which had already been buried without her knowledge or consent, she had to wait nearly two more months to visit his burial place, and now she has to raise money in order to bury him in a place of the family’s choosing.
Lumumba said Dexter’s family was never informed because the coroner’s office gave police a phone number for his family that “was not accurate or not a good number to be used,” and so the police “weren’t able to make contact.”
“The failure was that, ultimately, there was a lack of communication with the missing persons division, the coroner’s office and accident investigations,” he said. However, Bettersten previously said that the number given was correct, but she doesn’t remember ever receiving any call.
It’s also worth noting that Bettersten was reportedly reluctant to contact the authorities about her son in the first place because it was actually the second time a man in her family was killed by police.
More from NBC:
The decision to call the police was difficult for Bettersten. She did not trust them. In 2019, her 62-year-old brother died after a Jackson officer slammed him to the ground. The officer was convicted of manslaughter but is appealing.
Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing Jackson officers of excessive force and attempting to cover up their actions, and accusing the city of failing to properly train and supervise the officers. The city has denied the claims and said it isn’t liable for what happened. The officers’ lawyer said they acted responsibly and lawfully. A federal judge dismissed some of Bettersten’s claims; others remain pending in state court.
The office of civil attorney Ben Crump announced Thursday that Crump is now representing Dexter’s family.
— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) October 27, 2023
“Dexter’s story is a living nightmare for any mother,” Crump said in a statement. “The secrecy surrounding his death, the alleged concealment of vital information, and the callous burial in a pauper’s field without his mother’s knowledge are not just oversights, they are a grave miscarriage of justice. The fact that Dexter’s tragic end involved an off-duty police officer only deepens the wounds of this community and raises troubling questions about the integrity of those entrusted with upholding the law.”
“In the face of this tragedy, we stand with Bettersten Wade and demand transparency, accountability, and justice for Dexter,” Crump continued. “Every life deserves dignity and every grieving mother deserves the truth. We will not rest until the full truth is revealed, and those responsible for this injustice are held accountable. Dexter’s memory will not be forgotten, and his story will fuel our fight for a fair and just society where every life is valued and protected, regardless of who they are.”
Bettersten has launched a GoFundMe page in order to raise the money to give Dexter a proper burial.
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