He’s being retried for murder in September after his first trial ended in a mistrial last fall. He’s accused of burning 19-year-old Jessica Chambers alive in the small town of Courtland, Mississippi in 2014, a tragedy that is explored in Oxygen's upcoming docu-series “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers,” which premieres on September 15.
What do we really know about the man accused of her murder, Quinton Tellis?
1. He has a criminal history
Before he was accused of the gruesome murder of Chambers, Tellis spent time in prison for other, less heinous, crimes. He was sentenced to five years in 2011 for a burglary in 2010 and from fleeing the authorities, according to WREG in Memphis. After serving only a year, he was released from prison in 2012. That very same year he was arrested on another burglary charge and sentenced to eight more years behind bars, but only served two years in prison.
He was released from prison only two months before Jessica’s murder.
2. He was caught using another murder victim's debit card
His most chilling brush with the law was when he was questioned in connection with the brutal stabbing death of another woman just eight months after Chambers' murder. Tellis was allegedly caught using the debit card of Ming-Chen Hsiao, an international graduate student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, who police say was tortured and stabbed more than 30 times, according to KNOE-TV in Monroe, Louisiana.
Hsiao's body was discovered at her apartment on August 8, 2015. Hsiao, 34, who also went by “Mandy,” studied education and often passed out candy to the kids in her neighborhood, one friend remembered, according to KTVE-TV. Police in Louisiana believe that “Mandy” and Tellis knew each other, but the nature of their relationship isn’t clear, according to KTVE-TV.
Tellis has not been charged or indicted for Hsiao's murder. However, in May 2016, he pleaded guilty to the unauthorized use of Hsiao’s credit card and received a 10-year jail sentence.
3. He feels harassed by authorities
“I just felt like they were really harassing me,” Tellis told legal analyst Beth Karas in “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers," referring to the police investigatorsand the investigation into Jessica’s murder. “I just feel like they was trying to make something with me out of nothing.”
Alton Peterson, one of Tellis’ defense attorneys criticized the prosecution in the docu-series.
“I’ve seen an incredible effort on the part of the state to go after this young man and they did it with all their resources.”
4. His family maintains his innocence, question why his shed wasn't searched
Tellis’ sister Shaneeka Williams said in the docu-series that her brother passed a lie detector test.
“My brother’s not a killer,” she said.
Tellis’ mother Rebecca Tellis said she knows he’s not capable of murder.
During Tellis’ trial, the prosecution called a Special Agent with the FBI — one of the State’s 31 witnesses — to recount a conversation he had with Tellis 12 days after Jessica died. At that time, according the agent, Tellis admitted to having a gas can in his shed, even showing him the gas can in the shed. But in the docu-series, she said that police didn’t bother to confiscate Tellis’ gas can after he was arrested. The prosecution believes that Jessica was inside her car when it was doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Quinton’s mother Rebecca showed the producers of “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers” where the gas can was, still located in her shed years later. Tellis lived with his mother at the time Jessica was murdered. Rebecca Tellis also said police never searched the shed.
5. He deleted texts from Jessica.
Tellis is accused of deleting texts between Chambers and him shortly after her death, according to the docu-series “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers.” During the days leading up to Chambers’ murder, Tellis allegedly asked Chambers three days in a row for sex and she denied him every time, according to intelligence analyst Paul Rowlett, the final witness called by the prosecution.
After Chambers died, Rowlett estified that phone records indicated Tellis deleted all their calls and text message conversations. Prosecutors contend that Tellis was hiding evidence of their relationship and, particularly their communications that fateful day, but Tellis offered an explanation.
“I didn’t want to have a deceased person’s, uh, information in my phone with a number in my phone that’s just gonna be no longer used,” he claimed in the docu-series.
In the show, his mom said he was probably scared that police would assume he had something to do with Chambers’ death because they communicated so frequently in the days leading up to her murder.
According to Rowlett, Tellis was one of the last people ever to communicate with Chambers.
6. His arrest sparked racial debate
Tellis’ arrest created a racial divide in the tiny town of Courtland, as told in the docu-series. That division only escalated when the story went viral on social media.
“It started being a race war,” one of her friends recalled.
Ashunta Winfield, Chambers’ friend and neighbor, said that “Jessica loved everybody. She’s never seen a color in a person.” Chambers had black friends and black boyfriends, including boyfriend Travis Sanford who was incarcerated at the time of Chambers’ killing.
Winfield said Chambers would be upset if she knew how racially divided the town became after her murder.