MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Deputies in Marshall County, Mississippi believe they know who killed a 16-year-old girl from Memphis on Christmas Day. They are getting warrants for more than one suspect and hope to arrest those responsible in the next few hours.
It can't happen soon enough for Derica Patterson's mother. It was her daughter that was killed in a drive-by shooting near Holly Springs around 2:30am.
"How could someone take a child like that, and then on Christmas?" asks Carol Patterson. "How can you ride down and kill somebody on Christmas? And you don't even know who's all in the car and you take someone's life like that?"
For Patterson, life stopped Christmas morning when her only daughter, Derica, was killed.
The high school junior had gone to a concert in Marshall County, Mississippi with her older brother and three friends, all from Memphis.
The five were driving home on Highway 72 when investigators say another car pulled up and began firing an AK47 assault rifle at them. Derica was killed. Three others in the car were also shot, but survived.
"It's terrible," says Kelly McMillen, a criminal investigator with the Marshall County Sheriff's Department. "It's a tragic incident."
"I get this phone call with all this coming toward me at Christmas time," Patterson says. "I can't express the pain they've done to me about my baby. They took somebody special."
Derica's brother was the only one in the car not hit. Patterson says he held Derica in his arms as she died.
"It's hard on me. I don't know what to do," Patterson tells abc24.com.
Derica ran cross country, made good grades and could have graduated early. Her mom says the teen was planning to go to college. Now she's planning her funeral.
"It's not okay. It's not all right. You took my baby. You took a good baby. You took somebody heading to college, somebody running track, a good child," Patterson says.
She had just picked up Derica's cross country awards last week, and just finished Christmas shopping for her too.
"She said, 'Mom get me a laptop for Christmas so I can go to college.' She said 'I'm going to college, I need my laptop,'" Patterson says. "I said, 'Baby, I'm going to buy you one.'"
She did. Derica's laptop is waiting for her under the Christmas tree at home. She'll never get the chance to open it.
"She got it and she's not here now," her mother cries. "I don't know how I'm going to go on. I'm trying, but they took somebody very special from me."
Derica's family and friends are putting together a memorial for her this week. They'll be holding a vigil at Sheffield High School Wednesday afternoon at three o'clock.