This article is part of “Lost Rites,” a series on America’s failed death notification system.
An independent pathologist examining the newly exhumed body of Dexter Wade — the Mississippi man killed by police and buried in a pauper’s grave without his mother’s knowledge — found a wallet with a state identification card that included the address of a home he shared with his mother, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.
The pathologist, Frank Peretti, reported that he found the wallet in the front pocket of Wade’s jeans and that it contained his state identification card with his home address, along with a credit card and a health insurance card, attorney Ben Crump said in a statement.
Crump, who arranged for the independent autopsy, said he was sharing Peretti’s initial findings. NBC News has not seen the full autopsy report.
A representative of Crump’s confirmed that the home address was the same as his mother’s, Bettersten Wade. She reported her 37-year-old son missing on March 14, nine days after he was struck by a police cruiser as he was crossing a highway.
She got no information from police about what happened to him until Aug. 27, when she learned that he’d been killed less than an hour after he had left his house and buried in a pauper’s field owned by Hinds County.
A Hinds County coroner’s office investigator reported that he did not find identification on Dexter Wade’s body but found his name on a bottle of prescription pills and used that information to confirm who he was within a few days. The investigator said he called a number listed for Bettersten Wade but did not hear back. Bettersten Wade said she has no recollection or record of such a call.
The coroner’s office investigator reported that he also shared Dexter Wade’s information with police. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said last month that Wade was “without identification” and police were not able to identify him.
The findings about the ID in the wallet suggest that authorities knew all along where he lived, but there is no indication that authorities went to the address before burying Wade.
Bettersten Wade called the news “another jab in the stomach.”
“If they had a wallet and knew where his address was, why didn’t they just visit his address when he was laying out on the freeway and come get me so I could have seen my son?” she said.
“I could have gotten a last glimpse of my son. I could have been there, since they had all that information. And what took them so long after they had all that information just to come to my door, just to knock on my door?”
Crump said in his statement: “The tragic news we received from the independent pathologist today was heartbreaking for everyone who knew and cared for Dexter Wade, especially his mother. 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.”