BATESVILLE, Miss. — It was an emotional second day in court as several witnesses choked up on the stand recalling the night Jessica Chambers was discovered with severe burns to her body.
Seth Cook, a volunteer with the Courtland Fire Department, told the jury he was on duty and responded to reports of a car fire that tragic night in December 2014. He said when he arrived, he immediately noticed the burning vehicle and began assessing the scene, saying the fire appeared to be contained within the vehicle.
That’s when he noticed someone coming out of the woods 30 to 40 feet down the road. Cook stated he couldn’t tell who it was at first, but soon realized it was a woman who was unclothed except for a pair of underwear. Trance like, she was having trouble walking and had severe burns all over her skin. Some of her skin was already peeling back in some places.
Cook immediately got a blanket and helped lay her down behind the engine, then worked to contain the blaze.
When asked if he knew Jessica, Cook stated the two had attended the same school, but her burns were so bad he didn’t recognize her and was unaware she was the one injured until later that night.
The second witness, another firefighter named Daniel Cole, went into detail about the scene, which he described as a “mad house”.
He said it was extremely difficult to hear Jessica’s breathy answers with the diesel engine and the shear chaos of the scene. It took multiple attempts to even get her name correct. At first, it sounded like she was saying Katina, Katrina or Courtney. Cole had to get down on the ground next to her before he heard Jessica.
When he asked who did this, they once again struggled through multiple attempts before he heard “Eric did this to me. Eric set me on fire.”
The victim’s family and friends were in tears as District Attorney John Champion showed one photo taken of Jessica’s injuries by the firefighter and another taken later at the hospital.
During cross examination, the defense asked about reports that a suspicious person had been on the scene that night. He confirmed he received the information along with tag numbers.
The prosecution then called volunteer firefighter Brandie Davis, who is also trained EMR, to the stand who described the victim as a fighter.
Despite her injuries, he said you could tell she was trying to answer their questions.
“I asked her ‘Baby girl, you know who done this to you?’ She said, ‘Eric.'”
The question many first responders were asked was what name did Chambers give you when you asked who did this to you?
Those who talked to her said they heard the name “Eric.”
No one mentioned the name Quinton Tellis, the 29-year-old accused of drenching 19-year-old Jessica Chambers in gasoline then setting her and her vehicle on fire in rural Courtland nearly three years ago.
However throughout the day first responders also testified it was difficult to understand Chambers due to the severe burns to her mouth and throat.
Also on Wednesday, a courtroom source confirmed that one juror had been dismissed Tuesday before the trial began because of a Facebook post the juror had made stating, “Got jury duty am sequestered 2/weeks murder trial sucks.” The jury makeup is now six women, six men after an alternate replacement.
Several Panola County Sheriffs Office deputies also testified as well as a man who said he found Chambers’ keys near his home when he was walking with his daughter.
In total 18 witnesses took the stand.
Thursday, the jury is set to take a trip to see what prosecution calls key points in the case.