PANOLA COUNTY, Miss. — The man accused of killing 19-year-old Jessica Chambers returned to a Mississippi courtroom on Monday as jury selection for his second murder trial began.
Last year in Quinton Tellis’ first trial, jurors couldn’t reach a verdict resulting in the judge declaring a mistrial.
Some 300 potential jurors were called in from Oktibbeha County. If selected, they will be sequestered for the duration of the trial which is set to begin after jury selection is complete.
This second time around jurors will get to hear from a new witness who claims she picked up a man the night Chambers was burned. It’s unclear which side will be calling that witness.
Prosecutors said Tellis set Chambers and her car on fire on a rural back road near Courtland on the night of Dec. 6, 2014. Chambers had burns over 90 percent of her body when she was found staggering along the road like a “zombie,” according to trial testimony. She died at a hospital in Memphis.
The state says his cell phone data and behavior after Chambers’ death links him to the crime.
“He erases everything from his cell phone. He never calls to check on her. He never calls to find out what’s going on. He erases Jessica Chambers from his life.”
The defense staked its case on numerous firefighters and law enforcement officers testifying they heard a dying Chambers say “Eric” or “Derek” attacked her. District Attorney John Champion said other evidence led to Tellis, and prosecutors presented testimony that Chambers was so burned that she would have been unable to properly pronounce words.
The defense also claimed Champion tried to intimidate or coach testimony from an inmate who was jailed with Tellis to say Chambers had called Tellis “Eric” as a pet name. Champion denies doing so, saying he believed the inmate was lying in an attempt to win leniency on his own murder charges. Champion testified that he didn’t intend to use any such testimony, one reason the judge concluded the episode hadn’t harmed Tellis.
Tellis faces another murder indictment in Monroe, Louisiana, where he’s accused of torturing 34-year-old Meing-Chen Hsiao to death.