Mother of Dexter Wade alleges 'cover-up' after son struck and killed by police car, buried for months without notice

Mayor says it was determined to be an accident with no malicious intent.

November 16, 2023, 7:38 AM

Bettersten Wade Robinson searched for her son, Dexter Wade, for more than five months before she learned that he was killed on March 5 and buried in a potter's field after he was struck by an off-duty Jackson police officer in a police cruiser.

Wade Robinson, who is accusing the county and police of an alleged "cover-up," spoke with ABC News Live's Linsey Davis in an interview that aired on Prime Wednesday night and demanded "accountability."

"Right now I'm hoping I can get to some kind of answer as to why it happened and what was the reason that it happened. But right now I'm still not satisfied," she said.

"It's a steady cover-up," she added.

Dexter Wade is pictured in an undated photo.
Courtesy Wade family

After finding out from police that her son was buried in a potter's field, Wade Robinson sought to recover his body and give him a proper burial. But when she arrived for her son's exhumation on Monday morning, she soon learned that his body had been exhumed hours earlier without her presence and for the grieving mother, this added insult to injury.

"They put him in the ground without my permission. They dug him up without my permission," an outraged Wade Robinson said as she stood near the empty gravesite outside the Raymond Detention Center on Monday morning.

"Now I asked, can I exhume my child and try to get some peace … now y'all take that from me," a tearful Wade Robinson said as she stood near her son's burial place outside the Raymond Detention Center. "I couldn't even see him come out the ground. Yall didn't give me the time to see him before he took his last breath. I didn't get to see him come from the ground. Cover up!"

Family attorney Ben Crump told reporters on Monday that the family had reached an arrangement with the Hinds County Board of Supervisors that the exhumation would take place at 11:30 local time that day, but when they arrived they learned that Wade's body had been exhumed at 8:00 a.m. without his family's presence.

"Nobody got permission from the family to take Dexter out the ground in the early morning hours. It was an agreed upon position with the county that Ms. Bettersten Wade will be here at 11:30 to commence the exhumation of her son and they disrespected her," Crump said. "And like a thief in the night, they went and pulled the body out the ground."

Dexter Wade is pictured in an undated photo.
Courtesy Wade family

Crump shared a letter with ABC News that the family received from the Hinds County Board of Supervisors indicating that the exhumation would take place at 11:30 a.m.

ABC News reached out to all five members of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors to inquire about the letter and the timing of the exhumation but requests for comments were not returned.

County Administrator Kenny Wayne Jones told ABC News affiliate in Jackson, WAPT, that the incident was "very unfortunate," but said there was "no cover-up or anything like that. Just miscommunication."

ABC News reached out to Jones for further comment.

Wade Robinson told Davis she is "disappointed" that no one is "willing to take responsibility" for her burying her son and then exhuming him -- both without the family's knowledge or permission.

"How many mistakes you can have before you take responsibility," she said.

"Nobody has came to me and said that they are sorry," she added.

Wade Robinson said that she reported her son missing on March 14, nine days after she had last heard from him on March 5. She didn't learn until Aug. 24 -- more than five months after his death – that her son had been struck and killed by an off-duty Jackson police officer the night of March 5, when he was walking across a local highway.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba previously acknowledged during his State of the City address on Oct. 26 that there was a "lack of communication" that led to the months-long delay in letting Wade's family know what had happened to him.

According to Lumumba, Wade had no ID on his person when he was killed but he did have a prescription drug bottle that eventually allowed the medical examiner's office to identify him.

"The failure was that ultimately, there was a lack of communication with the missing person's division, the coroner's office and accident investigation," Lumumba said.

Lumumba said that "at no point have we identified, nor did any investigation reveal that there was any police misconduct in this process."

"The accident was investigated and it was determined that it was, in fact, an accident and that there was no malicious intent," he added.

ABC News reached out to the Jackson Police Department but a spokesperson declined to comment.

Crump told Davis in an interview that aired on Wednesday it is "unbelievable" that it took police more than five months to inform his family of his death, especially when "they know who Ms. Bettersten was" because she filed a missing person report with the Jackson Police Department and provided her name and address to police.

"They knew where he lived because he had medication in his pocket that had his doctor and the doctor told them that Ms. Bettersten was his next of kin," Crump said.

Following the exhumation, the Jackson Police Chief deferred ABC News' questions regarding allegations of a "cover-up" to the city of Jackson.

Melissa Payne, a spokeswoman for the city of Jackson, told ABC News that it would be "inappropriate" for the city to comment because "the City had no part in either his burial or exhumation. That was entirely with the county."

Crump, along with family attorney Dennis Sweet, are now calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances surrounding Wade's death, burial and exhumation.

"Attorney Sweet and I will absolutely make the case for transparency that continues to be denied to Ms. Bettersten. Just a low down dirty shame what happened here today – lowdown dirty shame," Crump said on Monday. "And as Ms. Bettersten said when she first called us … it was a cover."

ABC News has reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.

The office of Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said in a statement on Oct. 27 that his office working with the Jackson Police Department, Hinds County Coroner's Office, and other relevant agencies to investigate Wade's death, the failure to notify his next of kin in a timely manner and the "irregularities surrounding the disposition of Mr. Wade's body."

"We ask for the public's patience as this important work is undertaken," Owens added.

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this story.