The mothers, aunts and sisters of three Mississippi men who were buried in unmarked graves without their families being notified are calling on officials for answers.
Marrio Moore, 40, Jonathan Hankins, 39, and Dexter Wade, 37, were buried in the Hinds County Pauper’s Field without their families’ knowledge. Each man was reported missing, but it took months — and for Hankins, over a year — for them to find out.
The families did not know what had happened until NBCNews.com reporters broke the news.
“People all across America are scratching their heads in disbelief about what’s happening in Jackson, Mississippi, with this paupers graveyard. It went from talking about the water to now we’re talking about the graveyard, what is going on in Jackson, Mississippi?” said national civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, referring to the water crisis the city experienced in 2022.
Crump, along with attorney Dennis Sweet, a Jackson native, are representing the families. A press conference was held at the Stronger Hope Baptist Church in Jackson on Wednesday where the families pleaded for city and county officials to explain why they weren’t notified. They also want to know why the deaths of each man weren’t properly investigated by the Jackson Police Department.
Crump takes on Wade case: Civil rights attorney Ben Crump now involved in Dexter Wade case against Jackson MS Police Dept.
A further report from NBC News provided a list of names of 215 people who were buried in the same pauper’s field where Moore, Hankins and Wade were. This may lead to even more families joining Crump and Sweet. Two more families who weren’t notified could also be joining the fight, Crump said.
Crump and Sweet, along with U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation.
“Jackson, we can do better. We can do better,” Sweet said. “You’re going to hear from these families, they’re going to tell you their stories … they’re citizens, their children were citizens. We can do better.”
Moore was killed on Feb. 2. His family did not find out for eight months, according to his mother, Mary Moore Glenn, who spoke at the press conference.
Glenn said she found out her son was struck 22 times, wrapped in a tarp and left on a street. He died of blunt force trauma. With tears streaming down her face, she wondered why her son’s death wasn’t properly investigated as a homicide.
When she went to go request a death certificate from Hinds County, Glenn said she was forced to pay $250.
“We had to buy him back from the state,” Glen said. “When I went to try to get a death certificate for him I couldn’t get one because he was in the state’s property … me and my family, we don’t deserve that.”
Glenn said no law enforcement officials tried to contact her family about her son’s death even though he had an ID on him. She said law enforcement told her they went to her house, but the house they went to was an abandoned one.
“They got him and just threw him in a hole like he wasn’t anybody, like he wasn’t important,” she said.
Hankins was first reported missing in June 2022, according to his mother Gretchen Hankins. She said she didn’t find out for one year and seven months, on Dec. 4, when NBCNews.com reporters came to her home in Florence.
The last time Gretchen saw her son was on May 20, 2022. He was killed on May 23, 2022. His body was found in a hotel room in Jackson. This must have meant he had identification on him, Gretchen said, because you can’t check into a hotel room without an ID.
Gretchen said his body was identified and a picture of Hankins was shown on TV as a missing person. Still, law enforcement did not reach out or come to her house to her to tell her they had position of her son’s body.
“How could they (law enforcement) do that? What if someone did that to their children?” she said.
Unlike Glenn, Gretchen said she has been unable to retrieve a death certificate for her son. She also would have to pay $250 for the death certificate.
Wade was struck and killed by an off-duty Jackson police officer on March 5 while he was crossing the highway on I-55 South near McDowell Road. Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, filed a missing person’s report with the police department days later, but never heard anything.
It wasn’t until early October — 172 days after reporting him missing — that the family was finally told the information.
It was Wade’s death that got Crump and Sweet first involved.
“How many more? We need justice. We need accountability. We need some answers,” Bettersten shouted angrily during the press conference.
“They (law enforcement) didn’t do their job!”
In October, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Wade’s mother was not contacted, because “there was a lack of communication with the missing person’s division, the coroner’s office and accident investigation,” and called it “an unfortunate and tragic incident.”
On Nov. 13, Wade’s body was exhumed and an independent autopsy was conducted. Crump said a wallet containing Wade’s state identification card with his home address, a credit card and health insurance card was found in the jeans Wade was buried in. More controversy came about when Wade was exhumed by the county before his family and Bettersten showed up.
“My heart goes out to all the ladies that are here today,” Bettersten said. “I know how it feels to find out that your son was thrown away in the ground.”
Got story ideas? Reach out to Charlie Drape at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Families of MS men buried in pauper’s grave without their knowledge
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