Jessica Chambers may not be with us anymore. Her funeral is over; her friends are trying to find their way back to their normal lives, even with heavy hearts. But the case is far from over.
Jessica Chambers — for those of you who haven’t heard — was burned alive by her own car in a rural Mississippi area. When paramedics found her, she was still alive, still burning. She was flown to a Memphis hospital and died later.
Local police in Panola County, Mississippi at first said that they didn’t have much to go on.
“There’s just not a lot of street talk out there about who may or may not have done this,” the District attorney on the case said. Well, there’s plenty of street talk now. The question is whether all of it — or even any of it — is useful to police.
A lot of the investigation initially centered around gas station security camera footage showing Jessica Chambers not long before the murder. Police reports indicate that Jessica was doused with gasoline before being set on fire. The hope was that the security camera at the only gas station in the area might have caught something.
Apparently police did not get their hands on the footage before reporters did. When reporters released pieces of the video, i was apparent thaty they did not have the source tape, but had shot video of the monitor playing the tape. Different news outlets showed different segments of footage, from different angles.
Some amateur sleuths started comparing these pieces, noticing persons who were at the station around the same time as Jessica. But others went another route. Persons claiming association with the hacktivist group Anonymous started looking at potential gang activity angles and posting what they found to Twitter. Using techniques most people don’t know about and that law enforcement is forbidden from using, they found what they claimed were connections between Jessica, local gangs, and the owner of the gas station at the center of it all.
Anonymous takes credit for getting the FBI involved in the first place, by virtue of the alleged gang activity they uncovered in the area.
Sheriff's Office confirms FBI has been called in to help #JusticeforJessica More Like They Got Our Email and went WTF!!!!
— JessicasLight (@0Hour1) December 15, 2014
Anonymous claimed that a man named Ali Alsanai whose family owns the gas station, was involved with local gangs. They claimed that his gas station is a hub of gang activity. And they claimed that those gangs had affiliations that stretched not only into other states, but into the local police department, as well.
This line of “investigation” led to Ali Alsanai being viewed by some in the public as a suspect. This caused a lot of upset for Alsanai and his friends.
Police have cleared Alsanai, but others say that it was never a question of whether he lit the match that killed Jessica. It was about whether he knows who did it, and perhaps even altered security camera footage.
— Beau Eldon (@BeauEldon) December 17, 2014
"No drugs at the gas station, Ali Alsanai? I could go and buy some now at THE gas station." Courtland resident. #JusticeforJessica
— Beau Eldon (@BeauEldon) December 17, 2014
Beau Eldon’s Twitter account has been deleted since these tweets were posted.
While Jessica’s family and friends grieved and set up Facebook pages in her memory, seeking justice for her murder, others began to question the involvement of those in charge of the investigation, and even some of Jessica’s own family.
Eventually, the FBI got involved in the case, and still are. They vow not to leave until Jessica’s murderer or murderers are caught. Anonymous vows to expose the width and breadth of the area gang activity and purported law enforcement involvement in it. They say their methods are actually helping law enforcement, because the Feds don’t need a warrant to go after something that gets exposed on social media.
Jessica’s sister Amanda Prince said that she thinks some of the theorizing done by people searching online for clues can do more harm than good.
“You can’t just go by this rumor that he did, she did, you did it, and he did it. I want them to know, exactly, I want them to get all their evidence,” she said.
But the atmosphere in Panola County has changed, according to news reports. The lack of street talk is no longer a problem.
— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) December 19, 2014