SARDIS, Miss. – Just days before what would have been her 20th birthday, friends and family gathered in Panola County Saturday afternoon for a candlelight vigil and balloon release to honor Jessica Chambers, the woman found burning alive there nearly two months ago.
“Her mom and I got together and decided we wanted to do this to honor her; and to let her know we love her,” explained Ben Chambers. He said if his daughter had been alive to celebrate her own birthday this Monday, she would have spent it laughing and joking. “She always had a sense of humor, you know. You couldn’t have a bad day around her. She would always say, ‘you can be sad tomorrow.’”
But sad days are all the Chambers family has had since Jessica’s death December 7, the day after someone poured an accelerant down her mouth and noise and set her on fire. “It makes me sick to my stomach,” said Jessica’s mother Lisa Chambers. “A part of me is gone; part of me is dead. You have to make yourself eat. You have to make yourself get up. You can’t sleep,” she explained as she fought back tears.
Despite the weeks that have passed since Jessica’s death, the hurt and pain are all too common for her father as well. “Seems like the longer it go, the worse it gets; the harder it gets. You look at people and wonder, ‘did this one do it? Do they know something?’ Your mind never stops.”
While there was no birthday cake topped with candles to blow out at Jessica’s celebration, her parents made their own wish as they released 20 colorful balloons into the cloud filled blue sky over Sardis. “That people might see it and know something, and see the hurt they caused other people. And maybe they might come forward,” said her father. “One call you know. Nobody will never know that you told, you know. And they can get the reward. So we are hoping somebody might see it and bring us closure.”
The reward for information leading to an arrest in the death of Jessica is now $53,000. Anyone with any information is encouraged to call Crime stoppers or the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.