Crime

Things you may have missed in the Jessica Chambers burning death trial

Jessica Chambers
Jessica Chambers

The January 4, 2016, People Magazine cover featured a teenager with bright blue eyes and shoulder-length blonde hair. Her bangs were pulled away from her face with a flower clip.

Three words in all capital letters were placed above the woman’s face: WHO KILLED JESSICA?

The 19-year-old, Jessica Chambers, became a household name across the country in 2014 after she was burned to death in Courtland, a small Mississippi town near Batesville.

Therese Apel, a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, was the journalist to break the story and reported details in the case that were shocking to people nationwide.

Chambers’ mother, Lisa, told People that authorities told her she “was like the walking dead.”

It was more than murder, her father told the magazine. It was a revenge killing.

While some suspected Chambers’ killing would never be solved because there had not been an arrest a year after her death, Apel reported that the case was far from cold.

Apel went on camera to provide the community with an update and told the public that investigators were still sorting through evidence.

More than a month after People released its own in-depth story into Chambers’ killing, a special grand jury in Panola County indicted Quinton Tellis on a capital murder charge, Apel reported.

Chambers and Tellis both attended South Panola High School and grew up in the same neighborhood, and officials said he was the last person seen with Chambers before she was burned alive.

Tellis’ trial was postponed until this October. After six days of testimony, a jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial Monday. The news has caused mixed reactions on social media.

Here are key takeaways from Tellis’ trial from the Clarion-Ledger.

Day 1

Tellis’ defense attorney said he was buying a pre-paid debit card for his girlfriend at the time Chambers was burned alive.

Day 2

Several first responders who tried to save Chambers’ life testified that it sounded like she said “Eric” was her killer.

Day 3

Dr. William Hickerson, the director of the burn center at Regional Medical Center in Memphis, testified that Chambers had no chance of survival due to the widespread burns she sustained across her entire body.

Hickerson said normal speech from Chambers would have been highly unlikely due to the magnitude of the burns.

Day 4

Jurors were taken to the area where Chambers spent her final hours. Jurors were also shown the remains of the Kio Rio Chambers was in when she was set afire and the place where Chambers was last seen alive.

Day 5

Tellis admitted he had dinner with Chambers at Taco Bell in Batesville the day she died, although he previously said he had last seen Chambers much earlier that day. USA Today reporter Ron Maxey said it was “the most dramatic (testimony) since the trial began.”

Day 6

A federal intelligence analyst provided a timeline of Jessica Chambers’ final day alive.

The verdict

A judge declared a mistrial Monday after the jury came back initially with a not guilty verdict before announcing they were deadlocked.

District Attorney John Champion said Mississippi will retry Tellis in the Chambers killing.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_

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