Third Mississippi Man’s Death Allegedly Concealed From Family For Months

Third Mississippi Man’s Death Allegedly Concealed From Family For Months

Following the discoveries of Dexter Wade and Marrio Moore in a pauper's field, the family of Jonathan David Hankins is now seeking answers of their own

After BLACK ENTERPRISE reported that the Jackson Police Department buried two Black men in a pauper’s grave on the same day, The Associated Press reports that there has been a third occurrence in Mississippi. Following Dexter Wade and Marrio Moore, the family of Jonathan David Hankins is seeking answers in what is becoming a common occurrence within the Jackson Police Department.

Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump released a statement detailing that Hankins’ family had been searching for information about what happened to him for over a year. “Jonathan David Hankins’ family has been desperately seeking answers about their loved one’s disappearance for more than a year,” Crump said. “Now, to find out from news reports that his body was found in the same county where Dexter Wade’s body was buried after being struck by a police cruiser raises disturbing questions.”

Similar to the stories of Wade and Moore, what happened to Hankins was not revealed to his family by the Jackson Police Department, who said in the other cases that it did not communicate with the families of those men because it could not find their correct phone numbers or addresses. The only difference between Hankins and the other two men is that while Wade and Moore are Black men, Hankins is white.

Instead of the police contacting Jonathan David Hankins’ family, The Associated Press reported, they found out through reporters from NBC News, who informed them on Dec. 4 that Hankins’ body had been found in a motel room on May 23, 2022. Similar to the other two men, according to Crump, the family of Hankins was not notified of his death, even though investigators had been able to identify his body. 

The Hinds County Penal Farm in Raymond, Michigan, has become a focal point of the reports concerning the Jackson Police Department, especially after Wade’s body was found there in August. Wade was killed on March 5 after he was struck by an off-duty Jackson Police Department officer while walking across Interstate 55. Making things worse, Wade’s mother said that she was not informed that her son had been killed until late August, a full five months after his death. 

As previously reported by BE, Moore was buried in the same field on the same day as Wade: July 14. Crump said that Moore’s family waited even longer than Wade’s family. They did not find out he had died until eight months had passed. The police said they tried to contact Moore’s brother, but the number they had didn’t work. However, several members of Moore’s family told the AP that they didn’t recall being contacted by the department. 

There have been calls for the federal government to investigate the burials, but Gretchen Hankins, Jonathan David Hankins’ mother, believes that the department simply didn’t care because they thought her son was a drug addict.

Hankins told NBC News, “I want people to know that somebody is not doing their job and making folks go through what I’ve been through,” Hankins continued, calling the department’s competence into question, “They can’t even do the job of notifying a dead person’s next of kin. They probably just thought, ‘Another drug addict, gone.’”

Jason Ware, an attorney representing the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department, told The Mississippi Free Press, “She [Hankins] came up [to the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office] and said, ‘My son’s been missing.’ We put out all this information to try to locate him,” Ware said. “We still had this individual listed as a missing person as of last week.”

Meanwhile, Jackson Police Chief Joseph Wade announced a new next-of-kin notification policy during a press conference on Nov. 13, saying at one point, “We have several policies that we have to revise, create, and change. You would think that we’d have a death notification policy, but we do not. But we will as of today.” 

According to The Mississippi Free Press, the policy gives direct responsibility to Jackson Police Department officers to contact the next-of-kin when a body is discovered.

This, of course, is no consolation to Hankins’ mother, who described her anguish over not knowing what happened to her son. “That’s ridiculous,” she said. “Going that dang long and not calling people that’s just inhumane. It’s wrong. It’s just wrong.”