The burned Mississippi teen case has prompted an investigation that resulted in the arrests of 17 suspected gang members. The Mississippi teen, 19-year-old Jessica Chambers, was burned alive in a horrific death leading to zero answers on why the murder happened, according to New York Daily News.
The FBI says the men have been charged in north Mississippi as a part of a major operation targeting suspected gang members called “Operation Bite Back.” FBI Special Agent in Charge Don Alway announced the indictments in the burned teen case on Tuesday.
Officials say the operation focuses on Panola County and is a byproduct of the deep investigation that has come through the probe into the death of Chambers, who was murdered on Dec. 6, 2014, in Courtland. Just after 8 p.m., Chambers was doused with gasoline and set on fire in her car next to the gate to private land, police said.
The burned Mississippi teen got out of the car and was found on the road with burns over most of her body. She died hours later at a hospital in Memphis.
Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby said Tuesday’s arrests are not directly related to Chambers’ death, but to information gathered as authorities have interviewed more than 150 people and sorted through more than 20,000 phone records trying to find her killer.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said as the FBI assisted state and local investigators, suspected illegal activity came to light and resulted in the indictments and arrests Tuesday morning. The indictments in both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and Mississippi’s 17th Circuit Court District charge the 17 suspects on a variety of violations ranging from child endangerment, possession of stolen firearms, narcotics sales and felon in possession of a firearm to possession of counterfeit currency.
Federal agents targeted suspected members of the Black Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Sipp Mob street gangs, reports the paper.
“It’s taken eight or nine months if not a little longer to get to this point,” District Attorney John Champion told the paper. “And this is not over by any stretch of the imagination.”
Mississippi authorities are still checking a video from a gas station where they believe Chambers was last seen before she was burned alive. Chambers’ badly burned body was found Saturday near her burning car on a road in northern Mississippi, about 65 miles south of Memphis, Tenn.
District Attorney John Champion said the video of the Mississippi teen came from a convenience store near her Panola County home. He said authorities are conducting interviews and working to piece together what happened in the 90 minutes between the time Chambers was seen on the tape and when she was found on the side of the road.
Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby has said the case is being investigated as a homicide. County Coroner Gracie Gulledge says the cause of death was thermal injuries.
Champion said the teen was burned on more than 90% of her body. He said her vehicle is still being processed for accelerants and they are waiting for forensic lab results to come back.
The burned Mississippi teen’s father said that his daughter tried to tell first responders who killed her. Champion acknowledged that Chambers did communicate with first responders, but he declined to reveal what she said.