Man Seeks Missing Mother For Years At Wayne County Morgue; Turns Out She Was Killed, Buried In 2000

Her Family Is Still Awaiting A Proper Farewell

Sandra McNeill
June 11, 2019 - 4:45 pm
Delilah Dawn Hopkins

Delilah Dawn Hopkins (Handout photos)

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By Sandra McNeill
Twitter: @SandMcNeill

Bennett Hopkins has a heart-warming last memory of his mother.

She was helping him prepare a birthday party for his son at their home in Ecorse. It was March of 2000.  

He didn't know it at the time, but Bennett would never see his mother Delilah Hopkins again.

She disappeared after that. First, he reported her missing to Ecorse police, then for the next decade he would turn up at the Wayne County morgue and ask if there were any bodies matching that of his mother. 

The answer was always the same. The answer was no.

Hopkins gave up for a while until he saw a story in 2017 about police trying to match DNA to missing people. Bennett Hopkins hadn't heard anything in 10 years, but he told his brother it was worth a shot. He offered up his DNA to officials at the Wayne County morgue.

He saw something intriguing afterward.

"Then I noticed that same month, they put our mother on the Missing Persons website in Detroit.  She had never been on there."

His mother, he feared, had slipped through the cracks a long time ago.

Another year and a half went by. Out of the blue, Hopkins got a call asking him to come down to the morgue. Confusion mingled with excitement.

"I'm thinking maybe she is alive.  Maybe she might have have lost her memory."

What he was told, he said, was "heartbreaking."

Delilah Hopkins had been shot and killed, her body burned, on Detroit's southwest side in April of 2000. She had been buried that same year as a Jane Doe, her remains piled into a group grave. No ceremonies marked her life, there was no headstone for family to grieve over.

"When we were coming down there, talking to supervisors, whoever would help us at the Wayne County morgue, they never had her there," Bennett Hopkins said. "And to find out now that they had her and buried her, it was like a slap in the face.  All that work we did was for nothing."

Delilah had been buried in a grave with several other unknowns.

Her life warranted more, Hopkins said. Delilah had struggled with drug addiction throughout the years, but she was always a loving mother.  There was plenty of food on the table and money for clothes for school.  The girls in the neighborhood would come to her for support.

"It really hurt knowing that she was in the grave with three men," Hopkins said.  "This is not something that we wanted for our mother."

To add insult to injury, Hopkins found out that Delilah's body had been handled by the Perry Funeral Home in Detroit. The place was shut down earlier this year for gross negligence, fraud and deceit, after dozens of fetuses were found in boxes in the ceiling.

"The more we look, it's like everywhere we turn, it's something gruesome," Hopkins said.

Hopkins has ordered his mother's body to be exhumed from the Knollwood Cemetery in Canton.  He wants her to be with family.  County officials have told him it will cost him $2,800 for the exhumation and another $800 to have the body transported elsewhere.

Despite the cost, Hopkins will also order another test of the body's DNA.  After all the mistakes, he can't completely trust the body is Delilah's until he sees the results himself.

She deserves that much.

*Delilah Hopkins' killer has never been found.  Crimestoppers is offering a $2,500 reward for tips at 1-800-SPEAK UP.