Mississippi Police Still Seeking Clues in Case of Teenager Burned to Death
Ben Chambers tells PEOPLE that his daughter, Jessica, told authorities the first name of the person who did it before she died
It was supposed to be a quick dinner stop, but it ended in tragedy.
As of Wednesday, Mississippi investigators still don’t know who killed 19-year-old Jessica Lane Chambers, a fun-loving former high school cheerleader who was set on fire after being doused with accelerant in the small Tennessee town of Courtland on Dec. 6.
Investigators with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Panola County Sheriff’s Office are questioning several possible witnesses, reviewing Jessica’s cell phone data for clues and scouring a piece of video footage that shows her walking towards a gas station 90 minutes before first responders discovered her on fire about one mile from the gas station.
The grainy gas station footage shows Jessica waving before she walks over to speak with someone. The surveillance camera also picks up a man wearing a striped shirt filling up a gas can before walking in the same direction as the teen. Soon afterwards, Jessica returns to her car and drives off. According to WISTV, the police cleared the man wearing the striped shirt.
As the investigation continues, family members grieve.
“No one can believe this really happened to a child,” her father, Ben Chambers, tells PEOPLE. “She was burnt alive. This was cold-blooded murder. They have every person you can think of working on the case. They are checking all leads. It doesn t matter how big or little.”
Deputies in Mississippi responded to a call on Saturday about a burning car and found Jessica on fire outside her black 2005 Kia Rio.
“She had her hands up,” says Chambers. “One of the paramedics took his coat off and placed it around her.”
“I think she was targeted,” he says. “Doctors said they sprayed some kind of accelerant down her throat. You don’t do that unless you are a cruel person and you hate them. I don’t know how someone can hate someone that bad.”
Chambers, a mechanic with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, says Jessica’s cell phone was found outside her car and the battery was missing.
“There was some kind of struggle there,” he says. “I think someone pulled up beside her. My thought is that the person knocked her out and thought they killed her and poured gas on her and she woke up and got out of the car.”
Before she died, he says, Jessica told authorities the first name of the person who did it.
“I don’t know the name she told,” he says.
Jessica was flown by helicopter to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis where she died on Sunday at 2:37 a.m.
“We had to wait and wait,” her father says. “Finally a doctor told us there was nothing they could do. I broke down. She was burnt on 98 percent of her body. The only part that wasn’t burnt was the bottom of her feet.”
Chambers says his ex-wife spoke to his daughter at 7:20 p.m., about two hours before she died.
“She told her mother she would be home soon but she first was going to stop and get something to eat and clean her car out. She told her mother, ‘I love you, Mama. I will see you in just a little while.’ ”
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Panola County Sheriff’s Office did not return calls for comment.
At the time of her death, Chambers says his daughter was working at a clothing store as a sales clerk and planned to attend college next year. She wanted to be an accountant.
“She was so bubbly,” he says. “You never had a bad day around her. She was always cracking jokes. She was full of life and joy. She had no enemies. Today, I feel like I am in a dream.”