The family of a Mississippi man is in disbelief since learning authorities buried him months ago in a pauper’s field after he was found slain on the street, according to their attorney – the second such case to emerge recently in Jackson.
The body of Marrio Moore, 40, was found wrapped in a gray and blue tarp on the nearly freezing, rainy morning of February 2 by someone walking to work, according to a case report from the Hinds County Coroner’s Office. Moore’s death was ruled a homicide, that report shows, with the cause listed as “blunt force” to the head.
Two months later, on April 3, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors approved his burial in a penal farm, the document indicates, and Moore was buried there three months later, on July 14.
But Moore’s family wasn’t contacted by police or the coroner’s office, his sister told CNN. His family says they didn’t learn of his death until early October, when they saw Moore’s name in a list published by CNN affiliate WLBT of 24 homicide victims whose identities had not been publicly disclosed by the Jackson Police Department.
“I’m not at peace. I’m not at peace at all,” Marquita Moore, 39, said. “I toss and turn at night, and my mom do, too. She’s up all through the night, wondering and worrying.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Marquita added. “We’re all in, like, disbelief. Like, why would somebody want to do this to Marrio?”
It’s at least the second such case in Jackson in recent months, raising questions about efforts to notify the next of kin when a body is found: For months, the family of Dexter Wade was similarly unaware of his burial — in the same field as Moore, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents both families — after Wade was run over by a Jackson Police cruiser; his family had filed a missing persons report.
“As we learned more about Dexter Wade’s case and the deception his mother endured, increasingly feared that other families would suffer, or have suffered that same fate — now we know that to be true,” Crump said in the statement. He now represents five families of people buried in the pauper’s field, he told CNN’s “Laura Coates Live” on Tuesday.
“This begs the question once again, why was the next of kin left in the dark?” the attorney said in the st atement.
“It is inhumane to leave a family without answers, deprive them of the ability to give their loved one a proper burial,” he said. “Jackson authorities instead chose to bury these men in a pauper’s field with only a three-digit number to memorialize them. Shame on the Jackson Police Department for their inaction, their apathy, and their cruelty.”
In Moore’s case, the Jackson Police Department – which announced in November it would institute a death notification policy – and the coroner’s office have indicated efforts had been made to inform Moore’s family of his death.
An officer went to Moore’s last known address, knocked on the door and left contact information, Capt. Abraham Thompson told WLBT, while the coroner’s office report notes Moore’s medical records identified a brother, Gavin Moore, whose phone number “was not a working number.” (Marrio’s brother is named Godwin Onuchukwu, Marquita said, not Gavin Moore).
Both agencies gave CNN their reports and declined further comment.
But Marquita feels authorities’ efforts to contact her family were insufficient, she told CNN, contending they would have had no problem finding her family if her brother had committed a crime.
“If my brother would have committed a crime, (they) would have been beating the door to come in and look for him,” Marquita said.
“How long did your investigation go,” she asked, “before you buried him and put him in the ground? How long did your investigation last? I’m quite sure you didn’t do one,” she said. “I’m quite sure of it.”
‘I want justice,’ sister says
Moore’s family had not reported him missing, Marquita told CNN, because it was not abnormal for them to go months without contact: For years, he had struggled with drug addiction, she said, and embarrassed him to be around his family. But they could count on seeing him during the holiday season, come Thanksgiving and Christmas, when Marrio would visit his family, his sister said.
That won’t be the case this year. Instead, his family is searching for answers to a litany of questions: How did Marrio die? Who killed him? And why weren’t they informed?
“I felt so hurt, confused,” Marrio’s mother, Mary Glenn, told CNN Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates on Tuesday. “Because there was questions that I had no answers about … All that I know is that my son has been buried in a pauper’s grave.”
On the evening of October 9, Marquita’s aunt shared with her that day’s WLBT news report identifying the victims of 24 undisclosed homicides this year. The list was provided to WLBT by the Jackson Police Department, according to its report, which was intended to provide the public with a more complete picture of crime in Jackson.
The second name on the list was her brother, whom Marquita described as an intelligent, soft-spoken and gentle man – the kind of person who would literally not harm a fly, instead imploring his family to recognize bugs, too, are God’s creatures.
“And I just broke down on my couch then,” Marquita said. “I just broke down real bad.”
The next day, Marquita and her sister spoke by phone with an investigator at the coroner’s office, which confirmed the conversation happened. The investigator told them their brother was dead of a blunt force injury to the head and had been buried in a “massive grave,” Marquita said.
It was what the county did, for example, for indigent inmates with no family, the investigator said, she added.
“Well, he got a family,” Marquita told CNN. “He wasn’t an inmate either. He got people who love him and care for him.”
Marquita described a succession of meetings in the days that followed with members of the police department in which her family was told officers had tried to contact them to no avail.
In one, a detective told the family he’d visited two addresses in Jackson in an effort to reach them, Marquita said. She noted her mother has lived in the same house for more than 20 years and her brother received his mail there.
Thompson told the family an officer had left his card in her mother’s door on February 9, Marquita said. She doesn’t believe that, but asked, “If he did leave a card in the door, (does) it stop there?”
Asked whether leaving a card was adequate, Thompson told WLBT, “We have a protocol that we follow. And in any homicide, there’s a next of kin notification that needs to be done. I would say, leaving information, especially business cards, or information regarding police services or police, I certainly think that’s sufficient.”
On October 20, Moore’s family held a memorial service without his body, Marquita said. To the knowledge of Marrio’s family and their attorneys, he remains buried at that penal farm, Crump’s office said in a statement. But they have “not been notified of where in the pauper’s field he is buried, and they continue to seek answers regarding what exactly happened before his death.”
Now, “we are going to try to get their remains dug up and give (Marrio’s) mother, just like we did with Dexter Wade’s mother, a proper funeral and burial,” Crump told Coates.
What would bring Marquita’s family the “most peace out of it all” would be finding out what happened to her brother, she said, and seeing whoever is responsible for his death charged and prosecuted.
“I want justice,” she said. “Justice would bring the peace. The justice will.”
CNN’s Shawn Nottingham, Andy Rose and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.
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