A Mississippi jury is now deliberating whether Quinton Tellis, 29, is responsible for murdering 19-year-old Jessica Chambers on December 6, 2014, when she was set on fire and later died from second and third degree burns.
The jury began deliberating at approximately 4:00 p.m. Sunday after hearing closing statements from both defense and prosecuting attorneys. Early in the trial at least eight first responders testified to hearing Chambers say someone named Eric was responsible for setting her on fire, but prosecutors argued her injuries were so significant she would have been unable to communicate clearly.
“I told you as this trial began, you were going to think to yourself, ‘Hmm. why are we here?’ Because when the first responders got to Jessica, they did not hear the name Quinton. They thought they heard the name Eric or Derrick,” prosecuting attorney John Champion said during closing statements Sunday. “Maybe she was trying to say Tellis, she wasn’t trying to say Eric, because she couldn’t pronounce her t’s.”
Champion said the state believes Tellis repeatedly asked Chambers for sex, was denied it each time, and on the night she was murdered, he rendered her unconscious while in a field near his residence. Champion said he then “had to get her out of there” and drove her to the scene, where he proceeded to use gasoline he kept in the shed by his house to light her on fire.
Chambers died the following morning in a Memphis hospital.
Defense attorneys, however, argued the investigation failed to adequately explore other possible suspects, including those with the name Eric or Derrick. They said investigators answered their questions vaguely, reflecting a lack of attention to detail throughout law enforcement’s investigation, and emphasized Chambers’ dying declaration, in which she said “Eric set me on fire.”
“Eric is not on trial today, but ladies and gentlemen he should be,” said defense attorney Darla Palmer.
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