Bettersten Wade spent months calling the police for help finding her son, without being told that an off-duty officer driving an SUV had fatally struck him on the same day she last saw him.

For months, Bettersten Wade called the police in Jackson, Miss., desperate for any update or sign that detectives were making progress in tracking down Dexter, her 37-year-old son who left their home one day in March and vanished.

Each conversation ended in frustration. They never seemed any closer to finding him, she said.

And yet, records show that investigators for the Jackson Police Department knew exactly where Dexter Wade was. An off-duty police officer driving an SUV had struck and killed him on the same day that his mother last saw him, according to officials and coroner’s records. A deputy coroner said he was identified by a bottle of prescription medication he was carrying and through fingerprints.

Ms. Wade kept searching for more than five months, unaware that her son had been buried behind the local jail, in a ragged cemetery for the poor and unclaimed where graves are marked by small, numbered signs poking out of the dirt.


An unmarked grave where Dexter Wade was buried. Credit…via Ben Crump

“All that time, they knew where he’s at,” Ms. Wade said of the Jackson police in a recent interview. “They knew who he was.”

Officials in Jackson, a city of 150,000, have described Mr. Wade’s burial and the long delay in informing his mother of his death as regrettable but honest mistakes, a matter of miscommunication within an overburdened police department.

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