JACKSON, Miss. — Marquita Moore was lying on her couch at home the night of Oct. 10 when she received a text message from her aunt. It was a link to an article revealing that Jackson police had failed to notify the public of dozens of homicides this year.
Marquita clicked on it, wondering why her aunt thought she would be interested.
Then she scrolled down to the list of 24 homicide victims.
The second name was that of his older brother. Marrio Terrell Moore, 40, was killed Feb. 2, according to the report.
This was news to Marquita – and to the rest of her family.
She shuddered and began to cry. “Lord, this is my brother,” she remembers saying out loud. “Someone killed my brother.”
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It was after 8 p.m. and she was in her pajamas. She put on a jacket and shoes and headed to the police department’s headquarters in downtown Jackson looking for an explanation. A police officer told her no one was available, she said.
Over the next few days, a dazed and battered Marquita and her loved ones gradually learned bits and pieces of information about what had happened, and with each step they became angrier and more hurt.
Marrio had been bludgeoned to death, wrapped in a tarpaulin and left in the street. For months, his body lay unclaimed in the Hinds County morgue. Then, on July 14, inmates at the county prison farm buried his remains in a poor man’s field.
The news destroyed Marrio’s mother, Mary Moore Glenn, who did not accept his death and what authorities did to his body without her knowledge.
“What are you hiding?” Mary said in a recent interview. “Why can’t you just come and tell someone their child is gone?” »
Marrio was buried the same day and place as Dexter Wade, a Jackson man whose death sparked public outrage and calls for a federal investigation when NBC News reported on it last month. Wade, 37, was struck and killed by an off-duty Jackson police officer while crossing a six-lane highway on March 5. Authorities did not notify his mother, who reported him missing to Jackson police a few days later, and buried him without her knowledge. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba blamed a miscommunication and expressed regret, but the city declined to answer detailed questions.
Both cases reveal the failures of a system designed to ensure that families are informed of the deaths of their loved ones and have the opportunity to recover their bodies.
The Dexter Wade Story
- Wade, 37, was run over by a police car in March and buried in the Hinds County poor’s field in July, without his family knowing.
- With the help of attorney Ben Crump following the NBC News report, Wade was exhumed from the pauper’s grave, marked only with a number, in November.
- A week later, civil rights leaders spoke at Wade’s funeral, and his family eventually buried him in a cemetery.
In the days following his death, Marrio’s family demanded an explanation from the Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Coroner’s Office. They recorded conversations with officials from both agencies and provided copies to NBC News. NBC News also obtained documents about the case through public records requests.
Records and documents show authorities said they tried to contact Marrio’s family but did not do enough to track down his mother and other relatives in Jackson who say they asked for him.
An investigator with the Hinds County Coroner’s Office said in a report that she called Marrio’s brother, but the phone number did not work. A police commander told the family that a detective had left a card at Marrio’s mother’s house. But neither his mother, nor his brother, nor his two sisters remember being contacted by a person responsible for contacting his relatives.
The coroner’s office and the Jackson Police Department had no comment.
Marrio led an itinerant lifestyle and often went months without seeing his closest relatives, which is why they did not report him missing in the months following his death. But the family says it shouldn’t have mattered; they weren’t hard to find.
“They just said, ‘Oh, well, he doesn’t have anyone,’” Marquita said. “And they just threw it away.”
Marrio, the eldest of five siblings and father of an adult daughter, was loved by his family. He was humble and caring. He has worked in maintenance and construction and recently collected shopping carts at a grocery store. He read a lot. He was able to talk to anyone about almost anything: religion, politics, what was happening in the street.
This is what his family wants people to know about him.
“He was very smart and intelligent. It turned out he was struggling with the things of the world,” said his cousin April McNair.
Marrio had a 20-year drug addiction, and with that — perhaps because he was raised in a devout Christian home — came a sense of guilt, his family said. He seemed to be constantly moving. He walked quickly, as if he always had to be somewhere. He moved to Jackson and also, temporarily, to more distant places like Atlanta and Indiana. He was convicted of auto theft and grand theft. He rarely shared what he was doing or where he was going. He usually stopped by his mother’s house during the holidays to eat, chat and pick up the mail, then he would leave. It was as if he didn’t want to burden anyone, including the people who loved him the most.
“If you tried to get too close to him, he knew what he was doing and he knew someone was going to tell him, ‘You need to do this or do that.’ That’s why he stayed away,” said another sister, Marcedes Onuchukwu. “Because he basically didn’t want anyone, I guess, to shame him for his choices.”
His family nevertheless tried to stay in touch. His mother, stepfather, aunt, uncle and siblings looked for him or tried to call him at different times this year, those close to him said. They didn’t find it, but that wasn’t unusual. It didn’t occur to them to report him missing.
“He wasn’t missing. He just didn’t want to be found. He didn’t want to be seen,” Marcedes said.
The last parent to see him was Marquita, who ran into him at a convenience store in January. She gave him $5 and told him to be careful, and he assured her he would and quickly disappeared from sight.
She assumed they would all see him at Thanksgiving.
On Feb. 2, around 10 a.m., a cold, rainy day, a man called Jackson police to say he had discovered a body wrapped in a tarp on Gunda Street earlier that morning, according to reports from the Hinds County Coroner’s Office. and the Jackson Police Department. The dead man had dozens of injuries to his face and head, including skull fractures, indicating he had been beaten. In one of the man’s pockets were wet envelopes addressed to “Mario Moore” and a debit card with the name “Mario Moore,” an assistant medical investigator, Stephanie Horn, reported, recording a misspelling of Marrio’s first name.
The man’s body was transported to the county morgue, where the cause of death was determined to be homicide by blunt force trauma to the head. On Feb. 8, fingerprint records maintained by the state crime lab confirmed the man’s identity as Marrio Moore, documents show. A search of medical records yielded the number of a brother, whom Horn identified in his report as Gavin Moore. “The number was not a working number and the deceased was unclaimed,” Horn wrote.
(Marrio’s family says his only brother is named Godwin Onuchukwu and that they have never heard of a relative named Gavin Moore. Godwin told NBC News that his name was never Gavin.)
On March 31, the coroner’s office asked the Hinds County Board of Supervisors for permission to bury Marrio’s body in a pauper’s field at the county prison farm. On April 3, the board approved the request, along with similar requests for nine other organizations, including Dexter Wade’s, by a unanimous vote that lasted 12 seconds. The funeral took place on July 14.
NBC News has requested any records from Hinds County documenting efforts to notify Marrio’s next of kin. These records do not indicate that the county did anything else.
Marrio’s family — including his mother, who has lived for 20 years in a house 2 miles from where his body was found and where he received the child support bills and other mail — n He didn’t know about any of this.
The months passed.