NBC News uncovers a pattern – DollarJob

NBC News uncovers a pattern

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The family of David Shane Kelley has questions, too. 

Kelley, 42, was homeless in Jackson, addicted to drugs and on parole for sexual battery of a young girl in late 2022 when he lost contact with his family, including siblings in Arkansas and an adult daughter in South Carolina. His sister, Raina Houston, said she had tried without success to get authorities’ permission for him to come live with her, believing he’d have a better chance of staying healthy and out of trouble. 

In March 2023, Kelley’s brother and an aunt said they got automated texts from Vinelink, a system that provides updates on the custody status of people convicted of crimes. The texts said Kelley’s status had changed, the relatives said, and when they logged into Vinelink, they found Kelley listed as “deceased.” 

Billy Kelley, David Shane Kelley’s brother, said he was in disbelief. He said he began calling various agencies, including the Hinds County coroner’s office and Jackson Police Department, for more information. He said he learned that his brother had died of an overdose on Oct. 12, 2022, and had been buried. 

Billy Kelley said he asked police and the coroner’s office why his family wasn’t told about his brother’s death at the time, and both agencies said they’d tried to reach relatives. 

The coroner’s office has not responded to NBC News’ questions about the case, or requests for records on it. Jackson police declined to comment on the case and have asked for more time to respond to a records request.

Billy Kelley and six other close family members said they knew nothing about David Shane Kelley’s death until the Vinelink text. 

Billy Kelley said the coroner’s office told him that in order to get a death certificate and claim his brother’s body, the family would have to pay $500. No one had the money, he said, so he started a GoFundMe that raised only $170.

Over the next several months, relatives said they tried to get more information from the coroner’s office but didn’t hear back. As time passed, family members said they began to wonder if David Shane Kelley really was dead.

“In some way we were hoping that they had mixed him up with someone else,” said Aj’a Sims, his daughter.

Then, in early December, family members read NBC News’ list of Hinds County pauper’s burials. It gave the same October 2022 date of death for Kelley as his brother had been given months earlier and said Kelley was buried in February 2023. For those who had doubted his death, this was now confirmation.

“I just fell to my knees and I knew he was really gone,” Houston, his sister, said. “And I had to face it.”

Since then, Houston said, she has repeatedly called the Hinds County coroner’s office for information about what she needs to do to bring her brother’s body home to Arkansas. No one, she said, has called back.

Houston said she is troubled by the image of her brother lying in a pauper’s field along with others who were buried there without their families’ knowing they were dead.

“They shouldn’t be able to get away with this,” Houston said.

David Shane Kelley and his daughter, Aj'a Sims.
David Shane Kelley and his daughter, Aj’a Sims.Courtesy Kelley family

James Aaron Moran’s family found out the truth from an NBC News reporter in December, nearly 11 months after they’d last heard from him.

On Dec. 10, Kacey Moran, Joseph’s wife, read NBC News’ article about Hankins. She emailed the reporter, who found Moran’s name on burial records and shared the information with the family. It shocked and angered them. 

“What kind of sense does that make to let the family still be looking and hoping for almost a year and they never entered his name in a computer?” Brock, his mother, said. “It’s just so inhumane. I feel like they treated him like an animal instead of a person, all because he was homeless.” 

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