Crime

FBI: Investigation Into Mississippi Teen Who Was Burned Alive Nets 17 Arrests

| by Nik Bonopartis
Jessica Chambers.Jessica Chambers.

Authorities still haven't found the people who burned Jessica Chambers alive in Mississippi, but a year-long investigation has led to federal charges against 17 men belonging to street gangs that may have been involved.

The FBI announced the arrests on Dec. 15, saying its investigation -- in which agents have interviewed 150 people and pored through more than 20,000 phone records -- has made headway against north Mississippi gangs Black Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords and Sipp Mob, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

The 17 suspects were charged with crimes ranging from selling drugs to child abuse, counterfeiting money and possessing illegal firearms, the FBI told The Clarion-Ledger.

Federal agents were prompted to take a hard look at the northern Mississippi gangs after the death of 19-year-old Chambers, who was doused with gasoline and burned alive on Dec. 6, 2014. Chambers was inside her car, stopped at a gate leading to private land, in Courtland, when her attacker or attackers set her on fire. The young woman was found outside of her car and brought to a hospital in Memphis, where she died hours later.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack pointed out that the suspects arrested so far are not accused of participating in Chambers' death. Their arrests are the result of that investigation, as federal agents and local police launched a wide-ranging search to find clues in the Mississippi woman's death.

Authorities have released few details about the case, and it's not clear why Chambers was targeted. Chambers was at her Mississippi home until about 5 p.m. on the day she was murdered, then drove to a gas station a few miles away after getting a phone call from a friend, CBS News reported.

Footage from security cameras at the gas station shows the teenager filling her car up with gas, and detectives said Chambers stopped at home for a few minutes before driving into Batesville, a town about 5 miles from her home. She was there for 10 to 15 minutes, Panola County District Attorney John Champion told CBS News, but investigators don't know why she was there, and they can't account for her whereabouts for most of the next hour.

Chambers was found on the side of the road with burns over most of her body when a driver spotted her and called 911 at 8:15 p.m. Reports say Chambers spoke to paramedics before she died, but investigators have not publicly revealed the details of those conversations.

Sources: The Clarion-Ledger, CBS News / Photo credit: Justice For Jessica via Facebook