UPDATE: Judge declares mistrial in Jessica Chambers case.
BATESVILLE, MS — The last thing the jury heard before entering into deliberations Sunday was a possible timeline for the night Jessica Chambers was murdered. The jury has now deliberated for approximately six hours, and continues that process Monday morning.
While prosecutors argued that the evidence points to Quinton Tellis, 29, as Jessica's murderer, defense attorneys said investigators failed to make the pieces of the puzzle fit, leaving out key details. Quinton Tellis has pleaded not guilty of the murder of Chambers.
Prosecutors used cell phone records, a gas station video camera, and witness testimony to lay out a timeline for December 6, 2014, the day Chambers was killed. They say she woke up around 9 a.m. and texted Tellis, who said he had also just woken up. Chambers is seen on camera pulling into a nearby gas station and then pulling into Tellis’ driveway to pick him up.
For the next hour or so they rode around together with Chambers' friend, Kesha Myers. Several times that morning, the three passed the area on a rural road where Chambers would be found severely burned that night. Prosecutors argued this showed Tellis knew that rural road. Chambers dropped off Tellis at his residence before noon.
Chambers and Tellis continued to exchange text messages.
He wrote, “I need you."
Chambers responded, "What you need?"
Tellis wrote, "Some lovin."
She wrote, "Oh Lord. Can't."
Prosecutors say this was the fourth time that week Tellis had asked to have sex with Chambers, and she’d turned him down each time.
According to testimony from Chambers’ mother, Lisa Daugherty, Chambers took a nap that afternoon, and her phone goes inactive. She is woken up by a call from Tellis and by 5:00 or 5:15 p.m., Chambers left home. At 5:30 p.m. Tellis calls her to have her pick him up, according to Tellis’ own 2016 statement to police and phone records. They went to get food, then returned to Tellis’ house, where Tellis said they were smoking weed.
Though Tellis’ statements to police changed over the course of questioning, here, Tellis’ statements and prosecutors’ assertions differ. Prosecutors say Tellis lied about when and if he and Chambers had sex. State’s attorney John Champion said the state believes they never had sex at all, but rather that it was at this time Tellis may have tried to have sex with her, reclining the passenger seat, but instead, “Something happened inside that car to where he rendered her unconscious.”
At 7:10 p.m., cameras captured a car leaving Tellis’ driveway. Tellis said in previous interviews that car is a family member leaving. Prosecutors say it was Tellis and Chambers. At 7:50 p.m., video from a store across the street shows what appears to be headlights pulling into the Tellis family driveway and staying there for 90 seconds. Near the driveway was a shed where Tellis told police he kept a 5-gallon gas can.
At 8:07 p.m., a passerby called in a report of a car on fire. First responders headed to the scene, where they discovered Chambers covered in second and third degree burns pver 93% of her body. Multiple responders said they heard her say “Eric” when asked who did this to her. Chambers was taken to a nearby church parking lot, where she was then airlifted to a hospital in Memphis.
Between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., Tellis traveled north to the town of Batesville where he made stops at a Piggly Wiggly and Fred's before returning to Courtland. He was captured on video finally at the store across the street from his residence. At 7:42 p.m., Tellis texted Chambers that he wouldn't be able to see her that night. Prosecutors believe she was already incapacitated at that time. Phone records indicate that Tellis deleted all of his text exchanges with Chambers once he learned she was dead.
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