RAYMOND, Miss. — Monday was supposed to be the day Bettersten Wade finally got some peace.
Instead, he suffered another indignity.
Wade and his lawyers had arranged with Hinds County officials to exhume the remains of her son, Dexter Wade, 37, who had been beaten and killed by a Jackson police officer and buried in a pauper’s field on the county penal farm without her knowledge. They agreed on Monday at 11:30 a.m. Her attorneys said they spoke with a county prosecutor on Sunday to confirm.
But when Bettersten Wade arrived at the criminal prison at the appointed time, dressed in black, her son’s remains had already been dug up, put in a body bag and placed in the back of a Chevy Suburban. County officials said a public works crew showed up earlier in the morning and removed the remains before anyone else arrived.
She had been excluded from the process again.
«It makes me feel like I don’t exist,» he said. “It doesn’t matter that I’m her mother. They didn’t care. They act as if he were their child and they really were the ones who decided what happened to him. He had no right or opinion.”
For her, the exhumation was another insult in an ordeal that began March 5, when she last saw her son leave their home in Jackson. She reported her missing to Jackson police nine days later. Missing persons investigators told her for months that they didn’t know where she was.
Then, in late August, officers told him he had been hit by a Jackson police cruiser while crossing a six-lane highway less than an hour after leaving home. The Hinds County Coroner’s Office told her that his body had been buried in a poor field after going unclaimed for months. Wade paid $250 to obtain the rights to his body and began working to get him a proper funeral.
The case sparked public outrage when NBC News reported on it last month. Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Dennis Sweet took on her case and helped her arrange for an exhumation, an independent autopsy, and a funeral.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has expressed regret over the way the city handled the death of Dexter Wade, blaming a miscommunication and saying there was no malicious intent. The Jackson Police Department has not responded to questions about the case.
Monday’s exhumation required approval from the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, which it granted on Nov. 6. The next day, board attorney Tony Gaylor sent a letter to Sweet saying the exhumation would take place at 11:30 a.m. Monday. «It is the coroner’s procedure to exhume the body from the burial site in the presence of representatives of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, the coroner’s office and the funeral home that will receive the body,» Gaylor wrote.
Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones, whose office runs the penal farm, said a crew from the Department of Public Works, responsible for digging graves and maintaining the pauper’s camp, showed up earlier in the morning and, with help of people detained in the county. jail, they exhumed the body.
“We just follow the orders they give us,” Jones said. «Therefore, we have nothing to do with the decision-making when it comes to the area of the poor.»