On December 6, 2014, a Mississippi teenager was burned alive in her small hometown, leaving her family in search of justice. Last week, the re-trial of suspect Quinton Tellis ended in a hung jury for a second time, and those seeking closure remain stymied. “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing Of Jessica Chambers,” a docu-series on Oxygen airing Saturdays at 7/6c,explores what both the prosecution and defense say about Tellis’ texts and alibi.
Tellis and Chambers had become friends about two weeks before her death and, according to what Tellis told investigators, they had sex once before that tragic night. Cellphone records introduced at both trials depict a friendship based on hanging out — they allegedly rode around in her car on the morning of December 6, 2014, the day she was burned.
Tellis, who prosecutors say repeatedly asked Chambers for sex in the days leading up to her death, didn’t try to contact Chambers after hearing she had been burned; instead, a few days after her death, he deleted her contact information and all texts with her.
Nearly a year after Chambers’ death, Tellis admitted to investigators that he and Jessica went to a fast food restaurant and rode around early that evening. Days after the murder, Tellis had told investigators he only saw her in the morning.
Chakita Jackson, Tellis’s girlfriend in Louisiana, had been texting him throughout that fateful day, one of several women who had been in touch with him.
At 6:56 p.m., Jackson texted Tellis “Oh well,” presumably disappointed that he had not responded to her previous requests to see him.
Earlier that day, Jackson had texted Tellis that she was “trying to come up der” and asked him to call her, which he did at 4:15 p.m.
At 7:43 p.m., after an attempted phone call, Tellis texted Chambers “my friend is com in over tonight. Emma call u tomorrow. Goodnite. Sweet dreams.” The tenor and word choice of this text differs from previous text exchanges between them, raising the suspicions of investigators.
Panola County District Attorney John Champion says Tellis’ alibi was fabricated, and that Tellis had tried a series of alibis that didn’t hold, as Law and Crime reports, with three alibi witnesses saying they weren’t with Tellis around the time Chambers was burned.
And this last text to Chambers was part of the same fabrication, according to Champion, who in the first trial, characterized it as an “alibi text,” an attempt to “throw the police off.” Prosecution also views the attempt to meet up with Chakita Jackson and sending money to her as a ploy to create an alibi, according to the Clarion Ledger.
“How in the world did he know his girl was coming up if he didn’t talk to her before then?” Champion mused.
So what do we know for a fact about what Tellis did that evening around the time Chambers was set on fire?
After texting Chambers at 7:42 p.m. Tellis, called Jackson. Their phone call lasted approximately a minute. He then traveled about 10 minutes north to buy a $40 pre-paid card to send to Jackson. He’s captured on a store security camera at 8:26 p.m. making this transaction. Jackson loaded the money more than an hour later.
Learn more about this complex case and the convoluted first trial in “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing Of Jessica Chambers” on Oxygen Saturdays 7/6c.
[Photo: Associated Press]