FBI Arrests 17 in Mississippi After Teen Was Burned Alive in Panola County

December 18, 2015 Updated: December 18, 2015
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JACKSON, Miss.—The FBI says 17 people 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 this week.

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 Jessica Chambers, a 19-year-old woman burned alive 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 on Herron Road. She 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 told The Clarion-Ledger 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.

“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.”

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.