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Fact Check: Hinds County Pauper’s Field Not A ‘Secret’ Graveyard

JACKSON, Miss.—Rampant misinformation about the Hinds County pauper’s graveyard on social media is “harmful,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba warned at a community meeting on Jan. 24. Sensational rumors spread through social media and even in news reports about hundreds of bodies buried in Hinds County following NBC News’ accurate reports on three cases in which officials failed to notify family members about loved ones buried in unmarked graves.

“They created this narrative. They called it a ‘secret grave’ that’s supposedly behind, apparently, the ‘secret jail in Jackson,” the mayor told an audience of Jackson residents gathered at Faith Worship and Outreach Church on Medgar Evers Boulevard.

“A pauper’s field isn’t only found in Hinds County; it’s in every county in the United States of America,” he lamented. “It’s important that we own our narrative and don’t allow anybody to create a narrative for us.”

The Hinds County pauper’s cemetery is located behind the Hinds County Penal Farm in Raymond, Miss., just outside Jackson. It has been the focus of much conversation and outrage in recent months since October 2023, when NBC News reporter Jon Schuppe first began releasing a series of reports about three different men—Dexter Wade, Marrio Moore and Jonathan David Hankins—whom Hinds County officials buried at the cemetery over the past two years without notifying the men’s families of their deaths.

Each man died under different circumstances, NBC News reported. An off-duty Jackson police officer driving an SUV along Interstate 55 struck and killed Wade on March 5, 2023, as he attempted to walk across the highway. Jackson police found Moore after unknown assailants had beaten him to death, wrapped him in a tarp and left him lying on Gunda Street on Feb. 2, 2023. JPD and investigators with the Hinds County coroner’s office found Hankins at a hotel in Jackson on May 23, 2022, after he died of an apparent drug overdose.

On Dec. 18, 2023, NBC News released their report on the 215 “unclaimed people buried in a pauper’s field in Hinds County.” Social-media users on X, Tik Tok and YouTube began to conflate the

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