The 7-episode podcast, “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers” (listen here), hosted by legal analyst Beth Karas, is debuting to coincide with the docu-series on Oxygen that shares the same name. It is a deep-dive into the chilling murder case of Jessica Chambers, who was just 19 when she was burned alive in Mississippi on December 6, 2014. A suspect in the case, Quinton Tellis, is scheduled for a retrial this month.
Two men saw a fire on the side of a rural road and called 911. First responders found the teenager walking from her car. More than 90 percent of her body was covered in burns and she died not long after.
Eddie Eidson, a volunteer firefighter at the time, was one of the first responders on the scene. In episode 1 of the podcast, he said that Chambers looked as if she was covered in charcoal.
“She wasn’t complaining about pain or nothing,” he reflected. “Someone asked her if she was cold or something and she nodded. She wasn’t real talkative.”
But, she did say something: “Plain as day she said ‘Eric did this.’”
The podcast features interviews with her family members including her parents and her sister AJ Prince, and the first episode tackles the distinct setting of the crime: Courtland. It’s a small rural northern Mississippi town in the bible belt. It has a population of just about 500 people.
“Most of everybody knows everybody and all the kids on our road, we all knew each other,” Prince tells “Unspeakable Crime.” “We were all in someone’s backyard at some point playing.
The area is more African-American than Caucasian and most people live under the poverty line, common for small towns in the area. The county has one of the highest per capita church populations in the country.
District Attorney John Champion told “Unspeakable Crime” that nearly everyone who grows up there worships football games on Saturday and attends church on Sunday. Karas said that South Panola High School, where Chambers had been a student, is known for churning out NFL players. As of 2013, it’s the second highest county in the United States to send players to the NFL.
Chambers herself participated in the football culture through cheerleading. “Cheering, she loved it,” her sister said. “She was so little and zany, she was a flyer.”
Karas said it was the images of her as a cheerleader used in the media after her murder. People across the country became obsessed with the case, in part because of the brutal way Chambers died. As Karas explains in the podcast series, the attention took its toll on the tiny town of 500. People from across the country, and sometimes even other countries, were pointing to different Courtland residents as suspects based on no actual evidence.
“It was just a whole bunch of stuff that shouldn’t have ever happened,” said Ashunta Winfield, Chambers’ friend and neighbor.. “It was mostly people that weren’t even from here who had the most to say about Courtland.”
Download the “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers” podcast and watch on Oxygen Saturdays at 7/6c.