Attorney: Findings show Dexter Wade had wallet in front pocket with state ID card, home address

“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.”
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:20 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Findings from an independent autopsy are all the proof Bettersten Wade needs to know that local officials attempted to cover up her son’s death.

“It’s a coverup. Now you know it’s a coverup,” she said. “That’s too much information to inform me. If they didn’t do it that night, what about the next day? They could’ve knocked on my door.”

On Thursday, preliminary findings were released in an independent autopsy of Dexter Wade, who was run over and killed by an off-duty Jackson police officer back in March.

The report shows a wallet was found in the front pocket of Dexter’s jeans at the time of his death, and that the wallet contained his state identification card and his home address.

The wallet was in addition to the prescription bottle found on the deceased father of two, which the Hinds County Coroner’s Office used to positively identify the victim and obtain contact information for his next-of-kin, Bettersten.

Even with that information, Bettersten says she was never contacted about her son’s death, despite filing a missing person’s report days after he died.

“On the night he was got run over by the police cruiser... it wasn’t nothing for them to run down the street and get me to let me see the last breath of my son, or let me see the glimpse of my son, or have something to say I knew that he died in March,” she said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Wade was killed on the night of March 5. According to police reports, an off-duty officer struck Wade as he was walking along I-55, just south of McDowell Road.

Police reports indicate Wade’s leg had been severed as a result of the wreck. Additional details from the independent autopsy conducted by Dr. Frank Peretti show that Wade suffered multiple blunt-force injuries to his skull, ribs, and pelvis.

“His body was completely [run] over by the police vehicle,” according to a release from Bettersten’s attorney, Ben Crump.

“The tragic news we received from the independent pathologist today was heartbreaking for everyone who knew and cared for Dexter Wade, especially his mother,” Crump said in a statement. “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.”

Officials in the coroner’s office said previously they attempted to contact Bettersten after her son’s death. However, attorneys allege the police working on Wade’s death never did.

He was buried at the pauper’s burial ground in July. Bettersten was informed of her son’s death on August 24, after a new detective took over her case.

“It’s like my son’s body belongs to the city,” Bettersten said. “They made all the choices [on] what happened to him. It was their choice. After the cruiser hit him, it was their choice not to tell me he was in the morgue. It was their choice to go down to the potter’s field. It was their choice to exhume him.”

Wade has questioned why the police never told her about her son’s death. She says it was done in retaliation for the suit she filed several years ago against the department in response to her brother’s death.

According to the suit, Bettersten claims officers pulled George Robinson out of his vehicle and slammed him into the ground, killing him.

One officer, Anthony Fox, has been convicted in connection with that incident. Two other officers were cleared in the death of the 62-year-old, and the Mississippi attorney general and others have asked for Fox’s conviction to be overturned.

Other details of the autopsy show Dexter’s body was never embalmed and that his body was in an advanced state of decomposition.

Typically, bodies buried at the pauper’s cemetery are not embalmed but placed in a body bag inside of a wooden coffin.

State statute allows unclaimed bodies to be buried in five days. Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart held onto Dexter’s remains for months, in hopes they would be claimed.

Notes showed the coroner’s office turned over Dexter’s information to JPD’s accident investigation unit and reached out to the department several times to see if next of kin had been contacted.

JPD Chief Joseph Wade directed all questions to Jackson Director of Communications Melissa Faith Payne.

Payne provided this statement: “From the moment the coroner arrived on the scene of the accident until the moment Dexter Wade was buried, his body was in the custody of Hinds County and not the city of Jackson. The authority to examine, bury, and/or exhume lies with Hinds County and not the city of Jackson,” she said in a statement. “For these reasons, any questions surrounding possessions found on Mr. Wade’s body or his burial/exhumation should be directed to the Hinds County Coroner’s office or Hinds County officials.”

Grisham-Stewart did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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