Woman with Eastern Kentucky ties found dead in Mississippi

KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT)- We recently learned of a Mississippi murder with Eastern Kentucky ties.

In March, investigators found Amanda Hicks dead behind a church.

Police arrested James Russel Vanlaningham Jr. for the murder.

According to family members, Hicks grew up in Knott County and attended Perry Central.

She recently worked at a hospice center near Biloxi, Mississippi.

Vanlaningham faces a first-degree murder charge for Hick's death.

Family members said Hicks was with Vanlaningham for several years but they recently learned the name they knew him by...was fake.

"We've never known him as Vanlaningham, we never did know him as that," said Lillis Hylton, Hicks' mother. "We've always known him as Jim Bob Bills...James Mills."

After Hicks' death, Hylton said she learned the heartbreaking details about her daughter's relationship with Vanlaningham.

"He beat on her...I found that out," said Hylton.

The family feels that they will learn much more about Vanlaningham in the next few weeks.

Hicks' cause of death has not been determined. Her family tells us it may still be a few more weeks before they know what happened.

Hicks leaves behind two sons, Andrew and Matthew.

Andrew lives in Knott County, however, Matthew is still in Mississippi with social services.

"I know I will get him (Matthew)...I was told I would get him because I already passed everything," said Hylton. "But they don't have the funds to bring him to me so I'd have to go get him."

In order to bring Matthew home along with Hicks' remains, Hylton said she started a bank account at Community Trust Bank and is asking for help.

If you would like to make a donation, she said the account is under 'Memorial for Amanda' or Lillis Hylton.

Hylton said she will use the funds to bring Amanda's remains back to Knott County and bring Matthew home. She also said, if there is any leftover money, she will create a college fund for Matthew who is currently 15-years-old.

As the family continues to wait for answers, they are still grieving.

"It takes a low life person to take somebody's mommy out without letting them know or seeing their family one last time," said Andrew Hicks, Amanda Hicks' son. "I love my mommy to death. Even though she's dead right now resting in peace. I know she's looking down on me right now."

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