Content warning: This story is sad, infuriating, and could be triggering for some.
On March 5 of this year, Jackson, Mississippi resident Bettersten Wade lost contact with her 37-year-old son, Dexter Wade, a father of two daughters who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Bettersten admitted that her son had been through some rough times, including run-ins with the law, drug addiction, and prison time, and after several months of frantically searching for him—172 days to be exact, she was finally informed that he had been killed after being struck by a police car. To make matters worse, he had been buried in an unmarked grave since July and she had no absolutely no idea.
NBC News reports that earlier this month she was finally taken to a pauper’s field where she walked to the mounds of loosely packed dirt and stopped at grave No. 672 where her son was buried.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry,” Bettersten said at the unmarked grave.
So, how the hell did this happen? Well, it all started when Bettersten came home on March 5 to find a window on her home broken. She argued with Dexter about it, which resulted in him leaving the home. It was the last time she would see him alive.
On March 14, Bettersten called the Jackson Police Department to report him missing. It wasn’t an easy decision and she had been advised against it, she said. Why? Because her son was actually the second Black man in her family to be killed by a Jackson police officer.
NBC News notes that 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 and the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing Jackson officers of excessive force and attempting to cover up their actions. They also accused 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.
See, this is why we side-eye “back the blue” enthusiasts when they say, “Everybody hates cops until they need them.” It’s a sentiment that reeks of white privilege. For many people, especially Black people, cops are still absolutely feared and distrusted—even when we need them.
Anyway, after Bettersten called the authorities, an officer showed up at her home and took a statement. That was the beginning of several months—again, 172 days to be exact—of her calling the police constantly to check on her son’s case only to be told there was no new information, reaching out on social media to anyone who may know of her son’s whereabouts, and generally getting the run-around from every official she asked about Dexter, whose death authorities were aware of the entire time.
NBC News’ extensive report adds that the police department “did not respond to detailed questions and has not commented on or explained how it handled Dexter’s death.”
With that in mind, reporters had to piece together what happened via a coroner’s investigator, court records, and documents provided in response to public records requests: a crash report, incident reports, and coroner’s office records.
The grieving mom also shared personal notes, emails, Dexter’s death certificate, a coroner’s report, and case information cards provided to her by police to NBC’s Jon Schuppe.
Dexter Wade Was Struck And Killed By An Off-Duty Corporal On March 5, His Mother Was Informed Of His Death On August 24
NBC News reports that just 8 p.m. on March 5, Dexter was walking across Interstate 55, a six-lane highway, when a Jackson police SUV driven by an off-duty corporal struck him in the southbound lanes. The corporal was not given a field sobriety test or cited for any traffic violations and Dexte’s death was ruled an accident.
An investigator from the Hinds County coroner’s office responded to the scene. He did not find identification on Dexter while examining him but found a bottle of prescription medication in his pocket with his name on it, adds NBC News.
From there there are conflicting reports about what happened next.
Investigator, LaGrand Elliott reported that on March 8, he contacted the medical facility that had provided the prescription and received Bettersten’s name as Dexter’s next of kin, according to Elliott’s case notes, and said he called and left a voicemail but got no response. Ms. Bettersten said she didn’t remember receiving the phone call.
The investigator went on to allege that he passed on Bettersten’s phone number and address to the Jackson Police Department’s accident investigation squad so they could notify the mom about Dexter, reports NBC News.
One can only wonder what little effort must have been put into notifying Dexter’s family of his death when his mother, sister, children, and mother of his children spent all these months searching for him and pleading on social media for help finding his location.
Meanwhile, on April 3, just under a month after Dexter’s death, the Jackson Board of Supervisors approved the coroner’s burial request after no one had claimed his body.
It wasn’t until August 24 that Bettersten finally received the news that her son was dead and she continues to wonder if the delay is connected to the case involving her late brother.
“They had me looking for him all that time, and they knew who he was,” Bettersten told NBC News. “Maybe it was a vendetta. Maybe they buried my son to get back at me.”
To add insult to all of that injury, Bettersten had to pay the coroner’s office a $250 fee to claim Dexter’s body, and it took her several more weeks to find out where he was buried. She had to make an appointment in early October in order to finally visit where her son was laid to rest.
There is no plausible excuse that would justify how something like this could happen to anyone.
This is cruel, and hopefully, Dexter’s family will receive all the justice and compensation they deserve.
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