Jackson County

Gautier police: DNA tests will take weeks to confirm ID of body found

Amanda Hicks
Amanda Hicks

Gautier police say it will take weeks before DNA testing is completed to confirm whether a decomposed body found behind a church over the weekend is that of a missing Gautier woman.

Gautier police Lt. Neil Crocker said Wednesday police still suspect the body is that of Amanda Hicks, 37.

A preliminary autopsy on the remains came back inconclusive, Crocker added, so additional tests are required before an identity and cause of death are determined.

Police are investigating the death as a homicide.

Hicks was last seen Feb. 8, when her live-boyfriend, James Vanlaningham, 56, allegedly set fire to the couple’s mobile home at Santa Maria RV Park Marina on Martin Bluff Road. Vanlaningham also went by the alias James Mills.

Valaningham is in jail in Jackson County on a charge of first-degree arson in the fire. He has refused to cooperate with authorities on the missing-person investigation.

Hicks was last seen by neighbor Feb. 8 when she left the trailer park with Vanlaningham in her 2009 Dodge Ram pickup truck. The couple’s neighbors recalled hearing a woman, believed to be Hicks, scream before the fire started. The neighbors also saw the couple arguing outside before the fire started.

In addition, the couple had a history of domestic violence in which Hicks was the suspected victim.

Relatives, including the couple’s son, have not heard from Hicks since the night before she last seen in Mississippi.

Police found her wallet and cellphone when Vanlaningham was arrested in Escambia County, Alabama, about eight hours after the fire was reported.

To report information, call the Gautier Police Department at 228-497-2486 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45