In Mississippi a mistrial was declared in the murder trial of a man who was charged with burning cheerleader Jessica Chambers alive in a car. Aged 29, Quinton Tellis will face a retrial in the burning death of Chambers, 19, after jurors spent more than 10 hours deliberating before saying they were deadlocked on Monday in a Batesville courtroom.
Charged with capital murder since Jessica’s death on December 6th, 2014. Tellis did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial that began last Monday.Prosecutor John Champion said during the trial that Tellis thought he suffocated Chambers while they were having sex before he drove her car to a back road.
The Prosecutor said Tellis ran to his sisters home nearby and took her car, stopping to pick up gasoline from a shed at his home and then torched Jessica and her car.
Firefighters testified that Chambers told them someone named ‘Eric’ or ‘Derek’ set her on fire.First responders said Chambers looked like a ‘zombie,’ with burned skin and hair, when she walked from a wooded area in Courtland. She died hours later in a nearby hospital. Chambers’ throat was damaged and she could not pronounce the letter T. He said she could have been trying to say ‘Tellis.’
Investigators said they questioned about 10 to 15 people named Eric or Derek, and all were cleared.
The horrific circumstances surrounding Chambers’ death garnered national attention amid concerns about violent crime in rural communities.
During the trial emotions were heightened with witnesses breaking down and spectators crying as jurors were shown graphic photos of Chambers’ burned stomach and face. A burn doctor testified Chambers had so much damage to her mouth, throat and chest that she would be unable to properly say and pronounce words while she was speaking to firefighters.
Agents studied more than 20,000 cellphone numbers and interviewed more than 100 people during their investigation.
Prosecutors used cellphone location data and video surveillance footage from a store across the street from Tellis’ home in an attempt to prove he was with Chambers the night she was burned.
Defense argued the wrong man was on trial and Tellis had pleaded not guilty to the capital murder death. When confronted with further evidence during another interrogation more than two years later, Tellis acknowledged that Chambers picked him up in her car at about 5.30pm that night, and said they spent about 1 ½ hours together, according to videotaped interviews played for the jury Friday.
Investigators concluded that Tellis and Chambers were together until around 7.30pm, and showed the jury a video recording of a vehicle appearing to be Tellis’ sister’s, stopping at Tellis’ house at 7.50pm and staying for about two minutes before heading toward the crime scene.
Tellis, who had faced life in prison without parole if convicted, told investigators he kept a 5-gallon container of gasoline in a shed at his house.
Tellis faces another murder indictment in Louisiana, where he’s accused in the torture death of Meing-Chen Hsiao, a 34-year-old Taiwanese graduate student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
No trial date has been set in that case.