Dexter Wade, buried alone in Mississippi, finally gets the funeral he was denied
JACKSON, Miss. – More than eight months after 37-year-old Dexter Wade was murdered and later buried in a poor man’s field, his mother gave her only son the state funeral he had been denied.
Civil rights leaders arrived from across the country to attend the service on Monday. Several elected officials, including a member of Congress, found seats in the church audience alongside grieving family members. The gospel choir sang hopes for better days to come, surrounded on stage by 15 bouquets of decorative flowers, including one in the shape of the initials of the man whose violent death and secret burial sparked a national outcry: “DW.”
At the front of the room, standing in front of a ruby red casket, Petersten Wade, Dexter Wade’s mother, wiped tears from her cheeks and prepared to say goodbye.
From the church podium, with Dexter Wade’s two teenage daughters standing beside her, Petersten Wade talked about the months She spent her time searching She prays for her son’s return, unaware that he has been run over by an off-duty police officer and buried on the county penal farm.
“When I started this fight, I started with myself,” Petersten Wade said.
Now, through a live video broadcast broadcasting the service to a national audience, she addressed her son directly.
“Dexter, you’re home,” she choked.
She began her quest to find her son shortly after he left home on March 5 and did not return. For months afterward, missing persons investigators with the Jackson Police Department told her they had no leads. Then, in late August, officers revealed he was struck 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 his body was buried in a poor field in July after authorities failed to reach his next of kin — though, According to the family’s lawyers, an independent autopsy was conducted Investigations conducted on behalf of the family this month found that Dexter Wade had been buried with a government ID that included his home address.
The case sparked public outrage when NBC News reported on it last month. Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Dennis Sweet took on the case, helping to arrange the exhumation of Dexter Wade’s body, an independent autopsy, and finally the funeral. Last week, county workers His body was exhumed Hours before the agreed upon time, adding another insult to Petersten Wade’s ordeal.
Both Crump and Sweet were in attendance at New Horizon Church International, where the Rev. Al Sharpton, who hosts MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” delivered a eulogy for Dexter Wade on Monday. Sharpton spoke about Wade’s daughters, who will end up growing up without a father, and about fighting to hold the city of Jackson and Hinds County accountable. In all his years of advocating for families of those killed by police, Sharpton said, he had “never heard someone like that.”
“His life mattered to his mother and his daughters,” Sharpton said. “And we’re going to make it matter across this country.”
Crump said holding a “respectful funeral” for Wade was just the beginning of the fight for accountability. He called Ministry of Justice to investigate.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., attended the funeral and said Dexter Wade’s family deserves to know more about what happened to him.
“Who was investigating? Were any policies violated?” “To my knowledge, none of that information has been made available,” Thompson said.
In a statement last week in response to the claim that Dexter Wade was buried with an identification card that included his home address, a Jackson city spokesman said Hinds County was responsible for examining, burying and exhuming his body, which has remained in county custody ever since. The moment the forensic investigator arrives at the scene of the collision. The coroner’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens and Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes also attended, as part of an outpouring of support from local leaders. Owens said his office is working with city and county authorities to conduct a “full review” of the case. Stokes issued an apology Sunday on behalf of the City Council and apologized again during the funeral.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba blamed a communications failure for the botched case and said the police officers did not intend to cause any harm to Wade’s family. Last week, Police Chief Joseph Wade said he issued the police department’s first-ever policy on death notifications; The city did not provide a copy in response to NBC News’ requests.
But Petersten Wade and her attorney said the city’s responses are not enough.
“This is just trivial stuff,” Sweet said. “We need some real change.”
Petersten Wade said Monday’s funeral brought her some comfort but not peace, because so much remains unexplained.
“Now he will rest,” she said of her son. “He can rest. But his mother won’t rest until I get justice. Until I know what happened to him. Until I know who and what was involved.”
When he was buried in a county plot this summer, his grave was identified by only a number: 672.
Now, a white hearse drove Dexter Wade’s casket to a newly constructed cemetery, where his mother, father, grandmother, daughters and other relatives gathered around a freshly dug grave. The priest said a final prayer. Family members placed white, yellow and red roses on the casket. “Justice for Dexter Wade,” they chanted.
The casket was slowly lowered to the ground. A cover was placed over it bearing a nameplate: “Dexter Alex Wade 1985-2023.”
At her son’s second burial, Petersten Wade got up and dropped a handful of dirt on his coffin.
“I’ll see you when I get home,” she said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com