JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Gautier man accused of killing his girlfriend and dumping her body behind a church will remain in jail without bond.
A judge said no bond Thursday for murder and arson suspect James Russel Vanlaningham, Jr. A preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to indict Vanlaningham was set for April 17.
Vanlaningham is accused of killing Amanda Hicks and leaving her body behind Pine Grove United Methodist Church. The state medical examiner's office used dental records to identify her body. Scientists have still not determined how she was killed.
Vanlaningham showed no emotion in the courtroom and told the judge he had no questions about the charges against him.
Vanlaningham and Hicks were last seen together Feb. 8 leaving their camper at the Santa Maria Trailer Park. The camper caught fire shortly after they left. Vanlaningham is accused of setting that fire.
Neighbors said they suspected something was wrong when Hicks disappeared.
Jessica Cook said she was a neighbor to Vanlaningham and Hicks at the RV park off Martin Bluff Rd. Neighbors said the pair had trouble in their relationship.
"From the beginning, I knew there was foul play, and I kind of felt that she was gone. I knew they were searching for a body," said Cook. "He was already talking about harming her before it happened. Neighbors knew he was upset. When they heard screams coming from the trailer, they knew it was serious, and he was really trying to hurt her."
Vanlaningham was arrested in Alabama on a DUI charge the same day Hicks went missing. Investigators said her personal belongings were in the vehicle. He was charged with arson when he was brought back to Mississippi, and he was charged with murder Tuesday when the body was identified.
"Just getting the charge was a big step for us in this case. The next step is the preliminary hearing, where we'll put out all the facts of the case and the reasons why we charged him," Sgt. Nick Crocker, with the Gautier Police Department, said.
"I'm hoping Amanda gets the justice she deserves, and I'll do everything I can to make sure that happens," said Cook.