By David Howell
BATESVILLE – Quinton Tellis will face a second trial in the brutal 2014 murder of Jessica Chambers and the jury will be selected from Oktibeha County according to a ruling from Circuit Court Judge Gerald Chatham, Sr., last month.
Tellis is charged with capital murder in the burning death of Chambers in Panola County, a case that has attracted national media attention and prompted Judge Chatham to select a jury from outside of Panola County for both trials due to pretrial publicity. Last year Tellis was tried in Batesville with a jury selected from Pike County. After a six-day trial and nine hours of deliberation, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict prompting Judge Chatham to declare a mistrial. Seven of the 12 jurors had voted to convict Tellis, creating a deadlocked jury.
The second trial is scheduled to start Sept. 24 and almost 300 notices were sent to potential jurors in Oktibeha County last month, according to a story in the Panolian newspaper. Once empaneled, the jury will likely be sequestered, similar to the first trial.
Nineteen year-old Chambers was found beside her burned-out vehicle, not far from her home in Courtland, on December 6, 2014. Severely burned, she told first responders “Eric did it.” Hours later she died in a Memphis hospital, having sustained burns on over 93 percent of her body and leaving investigators with little to go on.
Fourteen months later after an exhaustive investigation, news came that Quinton Tellis would be charged with capital murder in the case. Public Safety Commissioner Warren Strain noted the investigation included thousands and thousands of miles traveled to other states and within Mississippi; 150 interviews and 20,000 telephone numbers analyzed by an investigative team that included federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Tellis was already behind bars when he was charged, locked up in the Ouachita Parrish Jail in Monroe, La. following his arrest in the neighboring state for fraudulent use of a debit card. The card belonged to a young female Chinese exchange student who was found murdered in a Monroe residence.
Investigators made two trips to the Louisiana jail to see Tellis before he was charged, recording statements from him as he admitted he and Chambers went to Taco Bell in Batesville an hour-and-a-half before she was murdered, a change from his earlier steadfast insistence that it had been hours earlier that day when he saw her.
Much of the prosecution’s case during the trial last year centered on cell phone records placing Tellis and Chambers together in the hours leading up to the crime, along with footage from a surveillance camera from a store directly across the highway from where Chambers lived that also captured her movement that final day of her life.
Tellis’ defense team grilled many of the first responders who heard Chambers’ final words that “Eric did this” during the first trial, a tactic that may have helped create doubt in the minds of the jurors.
Oxygen Media, the network for true crime programming, will air “Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers.” The show premiers Saturday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m. The five-part series explores the murder of 19 year-old Chambers and takes an inside look into the trial of Tellis, according to oxygen.com. Episodes will air on consecutive Saturdays (Sept. 15, 22, 29, October 6 and 13) at 6 p.m.
Tellis is already serving a 10-year sentence in Louisiana after pleading guilty for fraudulently using the credit card. He has also been charged with first-degree murder in this case, as the victim, University of Louisiana Monroe alumna Ming-Chen Hsiao was found stabbed to death.
Hsiao was tortured for her debit card’s personal identification number, according to a warrant filed in July, 2016 in the 4th Judicial District Court in Louisiana. She had been stabbed over 30 times, according to the warrant.