Close this search box.

Dexter Wade’s Family Wants Justice Department Investigation Over Death and Burial, Attorney Ben Crump Says

a photo of Ben Crump holding up a piece of paper while standing at a podium with half a dozen others standing behind and around him; to his left is Bettersten Wade, holding a poster with a photo of her son Dexter Wade's face with the words "JUSTICE FOR DEXTER" above his image
Dexter Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, holds a poster featuring a photo of her son at a press conference held in Jackson, Miss., on Oct. 30, 2023. Near her at the podium is civil-rights attorney Ben Crump, seen holding up what he says is a documented timeline of communication between an investigator with the Hind’s County Coroner’s office and Jackson police officers about contacting Dexter Wade’s next-of-kin to notify them of his passing. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Dexter Wade’s death and the monthslong failure of the Jackson Police Department to notify his family deserve federal scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, civil-rights attorney Ben Crump said as he joined family members at a press conference on Monday, Oct. 30.

Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, reported her 37-year-old son missing in March. But not until late August did the Jackson Police Department inform her that he had died on March 5 after an SUV driven by an off-duty Jackson police officer hit him while he was trying to cross Interstate 55. Dexter Wade’s body remained in the local morgue until late July when the county buried him in an unmarked grave without his family’s knowledge. The coroner’s office labeled the death an accident, NBC News reported on Oct. 25.

On Oct. 27, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said his office’s review did not find “any police misconduct in this process or that there was any malicious intent,” but instead attributed the failures to “a lack of communication with the missing person’s division, the coroner’s office and accident investigation.”

As he called for the federal government to step in on Monday, though, Crump expressed skepticism over the mayor’s claims.

“It’s hard to accept that with a leap of faith,” he said. During the press conference, the attorney held up a piece of paper that he said documented numerous case notes from former Hinds County Coroner’s office investigator LaGrand Elliot instructing JPD to contact Wade’s family and make a death notification to his next-of-kin: his mother.

a photo of a piece of paper says the following: Case Notes 2023-10-12 08:06 posted by LaGrand Elllott • 3/8/2023 Delivered prints to the Mississippi Stato Crime Laboratory (MSCL) • 3/8/2023. Contacted Hinds Behavior Clinic in Jackson, MS to Inquiro about the name Dexter Wade and was he a patient at the facility, «based on the proscription pills that were found on the decedent presumed to bo Dexter Wado. The clinic confirmed they had a patient by that name and gave me the next of Kin information which was Baronstine Robinson, Mother. • 3/8/2023-Made an attempt to call the emergency contact phone number filed with Hinds Behavior Clinic/ No answer/Left a voicemail No • 2023-10-12 08:39 posted by LaGrand Elliott •3/9/2023-Recieved confirmation of latent fingerprints from MSCL positively identifying the decedent as Dexter Wade. *3/9/2023-Contacted Jackson Police Department's Accident Investigation Squad and provided emergency contact information for Mr. Wade's mother to be contacted to make death notification. •3/15/2023-Followed-up with JPD regarding any updates about locating next of kin, no kin had been located as of yet. *3/30/2023-Follow-up call to JPD regarding updates about next of kin and no new updates •4/7/2023-Follow-up with JPD regarding updates no new updates •4/2023-Decedent approved for pulper burial *5/9/2023-Follow-up with JPD regarding updates no new updates •6/2023-Follow-up with JPD regarding updates no new updates •7/14/2023-Decedent laid to rest
During a press conference on Oct. 30, 2023, attorney Ben Crump held up this document which he said shows contacts between Hinds County Coroner’s Office investigator LaGrand Elliot and JPD officers about contacting Dexter Wade’s next-of-kin. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Crump has represented many other Black families in high-profile cases around the country, including the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols.

Bettersten Wade said she believes the failure to notify her family of the accident and her son’s death was intentional and that it speaks to a personal vendetta Jackson police have against them tied to their efforts to hold Jackson police officers accountable for the 2019 death of her brother, George Robinson. She suggested she would have been on the department’s radar and that JPD should have known where to find her.

“How could you not say this is a vendetta? I put in a missing person’s report. There’s my address; there’s my phone number. How could they not put all that together?” Bettersten Wade said at the press conference Monday. JPD has refused to comment on the case.

In a statement on Oct. 26, City of Jackson Communications Director Melissa Faith Payne said that at the time of Dexter Wade’s death, “the contact information for Mr. Wade was outdated, and neither the coroner’s office nor investigating officers were able to make contact with Mr. Wade’s family.”

“Subsequently, on March 14th, Dexter Wade’s family reported him missing to the Jackson Police missing person’s unit. Missing persons officers did not know that the pedestrian victim from March 5th was the same person reported missing on March 14th. The lead detective in the missing person’s case continued to investigate until he retired in July,” the statement said.

Despite Payne’s assertion that the contact information JPD officers had on file for the family was “outdated,” Bettersten Wade said the phone number she had in March is the same phone number she has today. Crump also questioned why no JPD officer attempted to reach her in person to let her know of her son’s death until late August—nearly six months later.

2019 Death of George Robinson

Bettersten Wade is no stranger to Jackson Police. Her 62-year-old brother, George Robinson, died in 2019 after an encounter with JPD officers who were patrolling the area looking for the killer of Pastor Anthony Longino. Though Robinson had no connection to the murder, witnesses at the time said they saw officers drag the man out of the car, bodyslam him and beat him with a flashlight.

At the time of his death, he had been recovering from a stroke that left him hospitalized for 10 days.

Bettersten Wade, right, demanded accountability for the police officers who beat her brother, George Robinson, before his death. She is pictured here next to her mother, Vernice Robinson, at a press conference in Jackson’s Washington Addition on Jan. 24, 2019. Photo by Ashton Pittman

In 2020, a grand jury indicted three officers for second-degree murder over Robinson’s death, but the following year, Hinds County Judge Faye Peterson dismissed charges against two of the officers, citing a lack of evidence that the officers conspired “to commit an unlawful act against Mr. Robinson.” A jury convicted the third officer, Anthony Fox, in August 2022 of negligent manslaughter; Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Adrienne Wooten sentenced him to five years in a state prison.

This July, however, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch urged the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn Fox’s conviction. The appeal is still in progress, and the court has not made a decision.

‘Do We Have A System That Works For Us?’

“Do we have a system that works for us?” Bettersten Wade asked at Monday’s press conference. She said she went to the Jackson Police Department several times desperate for help finding her then-missing son but could have never imagined that JPD was somehow involved in his disappearance and death.

“I gave y’all the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “I came to y’all. If I figured y’all did something to him, why would I come to y’all? I kept saying it was just not normal for him not to call me. That’s why I reached out (to the police).”

a photo of a poster standing next to a podium and WAPT microphone on a stand says, "JUSTICE FOR DEXTER" at the top and bottom with a photo of justice wade; the poster sits on an easel
Dexter Wade was 37 years old when an off-duty JPD officer struck and killed him while he was walking across Interstate 55. Attorney Ben Crump said at a press conference on Oct. 30, 2023, that his next step is to petition Hinds County court to have Wade’s body exhumed for an independent autopsy “so that the family can have a proper funeral.” Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Ben Crump said that he wants the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved in the case but that his immediate next step is petitioning Hinds County Circuit Court to have Dexter Wade’s body exhumed so that his family may be able to give him “a proper funeral and make sure he has a headstone.”

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said in a statement on Oct. 27 that his office is monitoring developments in the case and that they are working with other law-enforcement agencies to review the investigation and handling of Wade’s death.

“The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office is aware of, and monitoring, the situation surrounding the death of Dexter Wade, the failure to notify Mr. Wade’s next-of-kin, and the irregularities surrounding the disposition of Mr. Wade’s body,” Owens said.

“We ask for the public’s patience as this important work is undertaken.”

The City has not identified the off-duty JPD officer who hit and killed Dexter Wade on March 5.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.