Courtland, Mississippi resident Sherry Flowers testified Wednesday about December 6, 2014—the night Chambers, then 19, was set on fire. She told jurors she went to a funeral at 2:00 p.m. that day and then a family gathering afterwards. She was flagged down by a young man on the side of the road on Main Street in Courtland who told her he wanted a lift to check on his aunt, Julia Chambers (no relation to Jessica Chambers) who lived about a mile down the road. She testified that this was just after dark.
According to Flowers, she knew Julia Chambers and felt safe giving the stranger the ride. Flowers described him as a black man, about 19 years old, and a small to medium build. She did not identify Quinton Tellis in court as the person who flagged her down. In December 2014, Tellis was 26 years old. Flowers said she dropped off the young man near, but not at, Julia Flowers’s home. This was just a few miles from the location where Jessica Chambers was set on fire.
Several of the first responders who have already testified at Tellis’s retrial described being dispatched to a house fire at Julia Chambers’s home shortly before being called to the location where Jessica was burned.
When Julia Chambers was called as a witness, she told jurors that Quinton Tellis is a very distant relative. His great-grandmother and her grandmother were sisters. Chambers said she hasn’t spoken to Tellis in years and that he did not stop by her house that night.
Prosecutors are expected to argue that Tellis, instead of going to Julia Chambers’s home, went to his sister’s nearby to borrow her truck, retrieve his five-gallon gas can, then return to the scene of the crime where Jessica Chambers was allegedly unconscious. He’s accused of setting her and her car on fire just before 8:00 p.m.
On cross examination, Flowers said she did not see any lights or sirens when she picked up the young man, even though prosecutors allege it was around the time several fire trucks were responding to the report of the house fire. She also offered no clear explanation for what took her four years to come forward, a fact that defense attorneys hope will resonate with jurors. Although Flowers knew about Jessica’s death within two days, she only decided to cooperate when a deputy sheriff she knows pressed her to come forward after last year’s trial. Flowers denied she was promised a benefit in return for her testimony for herself or her incarcerated son.
On Thursday, jurors are expected to take a field trip to the scene.
[Photo: Sherry Flowers testifies on the second day of the retrial of Quinton Tellis in Batesville, Miss., on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018; Credit: Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP, Pool]