The 19-year-old was set on fire on Dec. 6, 2014

By Tara Fowler
December 23, 2015 10:10 AM
Jimmy Alford Studios

Though she graduated from high school with all A’s and B’s and held down a job, 19-year-old Jessica Chambers ran with a rough crowd at times ahead of her death.

“I think she was making friends with the wrong people, with drug dealers,” ex-boyfriend Bryan Rudd tells PEOPLE.

Still, he adds, “she did nothing that was bad to get herself burnt alive.”

On the evening of Dec. 6, 2014, someone set Jessica on fire, then left her to stumble blindly along a road in Courtland, Mississippi, with burns covering 98 percent of her body.

After a passing motorist alerted 911, first responders fought to save the teen’s life, but couldn’t. After Jessica was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, there was little doctors could do but wrap her in gauze. She died at 2:37 a.m.

For more on the mysterious case of Jessica Chambers, including a timeline of her last day and new information from police, pick up this week’s copy of PEOPLE.

Family friend Jordan Bryant echoes Rudd’s comments, telling PEOPLE that Jessica hung out with the wrong crowd.

Bryant suspects Jessica’s murder wasn’t random. “I think it was real personal,” he says.

He adds: “I wouldn’t wish that type of death on anybody. I think someone was trying to send a message.”

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But Jessica’s best friend in high school says everybody loved the teen. “She was really easy to get along with,” says Leslie Hall. “She was funny. She was really smart.”

Hall admits that Jessica went through a rough patch, but says she was getting better in the months before her shocking murder. “Jessica said in October [2014] she was going to church and everything was falling into place for her,” she says.

She adds: “I sure didn’t expect anyone to do anything to her . I instantly burst into tears [when I found out]. I was shocked that someone could do that.”

Now, more than a year after her friend’s death, Hall is terrified to leave her house at night. “We still don’t know anything,” she says. “It has scared the whole town to know someone could do that and still be around us.

“It could be anybody.”

With reporting by ALEXANDRA ROCKEY FLEMING and CHRISTINE PELISEK

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