Body identified; murder arrest made

Updated: Mar. 28, 2017 at 4:44 PM CDT
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GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier Police confirm the body found behind a Jackson County church 10 days ago was Amanda Hicks. And they believe James Russel Vanlaningham, Jr. killed her.

A Gautier Police Department news release says the state medical examiner's office has positively identified Hicks. What scientists couldn't determine yet was how she died.

Friends last saw the 37-year-old Hicks in early February. Since then, they've held out hope their friend would be located.

Police said Hicks and Vanlaningham lived in a camper trailer at the Santa Maria RV Park in Gautier. The February night when that trailer burned, Alabama authorities arrested Vanlaningham on a DUI charge. When he was brought back to Mississippi, Gautier investigators accused him of arson.

Now, Vanlaningham faces a first-degree murder charge for reportedly killing Hicks and dumping her body behind Pine Grove Methodist Church. A judge denied bond for the suspect. He's locked up in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center.

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