Forensic pathologist takes the stand in Jessica Chambers murder trial

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BATESVILLE, Miss. — The second day of the Jessica Chambers murder trial got underway on Wednesday with the prosecution calling another first responder to the scene.

Melissa Rodgers told the jury she responded to the fire that night and immediately noticed Chambers on her side being comforted and questioned by a law enforcement agent. She said Cole Haley was trying to get Chambers to tell her who set her on fire, but she doesn’t remember Jessica actually saying anything.

In a subsequent report read aloud in court, Rodgers noted Jessica was only wearing her underwear and that her name was Jessica Chambers.

The second witness was another first responder who described the “chaos” of that night. He said there were several trucks on the scene making noise and it was very loud.

“It sounded like Eric or Derek but it was a struggle for her to say what she was saying,” he told the jury.

He then described how Jessica looked.

“Her body was completely covered in burns — almost looked like shoe leather. Her face itself, she was unrecognizable. There was black charring.”

Part One: First Responders

The next witness to take the stand was Bradley Dixon, an EMT who responded to the scene.

Again, this witness told the jury the area was very noisy with three to four fire engines running. He said it got even noisier after they added the noise from the equipment in the ambulance.

He also described Jessica’s injuries saying she was completely burned over her entire body and her face was severely burned.

“Skin was hanging off of her lips [and] out of her nose. Her eyelashes and eyebrows were gone. The hair on top of her head was a big singe-ball.”

Dixon stated they loaded Jessica into the ambulance and by that point the law enforcement officers were still trying to determine who did this to her. She was trying to respond but they couldn’t understand anything she was saying.  He said he heard her say “her-see,” which he took for “thirsty.” He said he heard her say “ole,” which he took for “cold.” He said he heard her say “eh-wih,” which he took for “Eric.”

The paramedic on the scene that night was a man named Josh Perkins, who took the stand next.

He reiterated the fact that Jessica was severely burned when he arrived on the scene at 8:30 p.m. They put her into the ambulance and took her to the landing zone where they met a flight crew who took her to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

He said as they were working, law enforcement continued to ask her who did this to her, but said she was having trouble speaking.

Part Two

On the stand was the Panola County Sheriff’s lieutenant who oversees investigations. He responded to the scene the night. He says he saw a cell phone a few feet away from the driver’s side door when he got there, and the car door was open. The lieutenant also says he saw burned clothing on the ground.

The defense asked how the phone was not damaged by the fire and neither was the ground it was on, even though it was a few feet from her car. They’ve reiterated how evidence went to an Atlanta lab for processing, how the phone found on the scene belonged to Jessica Chambers and how many agencies were involved in the investigation.

Part Three

Next to take the stand was the former deputy medical examiner for the state of Mississippi. She performed the autopsy on Jessica Chambers and says the most likely scenario, based on her patterns, is Chambers was seated when she was set on fire.

They showed pictures of Chambers’ body in court while the doctor explained the burns.The matter of death was determined to be homicide.

Defense confirmed drugs (marijuana and nicotine) were found in Chambers’ system. The state clarified how other drugs found in her system (opioid-related) were administered at the hospital. The autopsy also revealed Chambers had no blunt force injuries.

The next witness was the Panola County Sheriff’s investigator. He says he was contacted when a set of keys was picked up in Courtland. (They were Chambers’ keys.) They were found about .2-.3 miles away from where Chambers’ car was found.

Sherry Flowers testified  that she picked up a hitchhiker the night that Jessica Chambers was murdered.

She told the jury she was driving down the road between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. when she saw a person walking alone down the street. She said she stopped because she thought it was her cousin, but quickly realized it wasn’t.

The man – whom she described as being a small to medium build African-American man around 20 years old- asked her which way she was going and if he could have a ride. He said he heard that his aunt’s house had caught on fire and was headed that way. He then identified his aunt as Julia Chambers.

Flowers said she knew Chambers and felt comfortable giving this man a ride. She drove him to Highway 51 and dropped him off across the street from the house. However, she said she didn’t see which way he went from there.

Flowers didn’t identify Tellis in court Wednesday and agreed with a prosecutor that she didn’t know whom she picked up.

The location where Flowers picked up the hitchhiker was close to a location where a sheriff’s investigator had testified on Wednesday that a Courtland resident found Chambers’ keys in a ditch two days after her death.

Part Four

Julia Chambers’ daughter took the stand next. She said her mother’s house filled with smoke because of a microwave. She knows Quinton Tellis and identified him in the courtroom. When asked if Tellis ever stopped by her mother’s home the night Jessica Chambers was set on fire, she said ‘no.’

She said she and Quinton Tellis are distantly related. His grandmother and her great grandmother were sisters.

Julia Chambers took the stand next. She identified Tellis in the courtroom and said he’s been to her home maybe twice. He never stopped by her home the night police responded to a structure fire there. The structure fire call at Julia’s home is the call firefighters responded to before they got the call about Jessica Chambers.

Next to take the stand was Matthew Simon with ATF. He’s connected to the crime lab in Georgia where investigators sent pieces pf Chambers’ clothing to be tested. Gasoline was found on a piece of a bra. Other evidence, like a strand of hair, piece of a blanket and lighter, did not have gasoline on them.

Background information

A Mississippi jury returns to the courtroom on Wednesday for day two of the Jessica Chambers murder trial.

Quinton Tellis is accused of killing Jessica Chambers in 2014. Tellis’ 2017 trial on capital murder charges ended in a hung jury.

This trial could last a week. Prosecutors say cellphone locations, video, DNA on a key chain and Tellis’ statements link him to Chambers’ death. A new witness may testify she picked up Tellis that night near where Chambers was burned.

The defense emphasizes multiple emergency workers heard the dying Chambers say someone named “Eric” or “Derek” attacked her.

Tellis faces another murder indictment in 2015′s death of Meing-Chen Hsiao in Monroe, Louisiana.

WREG will be streaming the proceedings online and on our Facebook page when the court proceedings begin at 9 a.m. Bridget Chapman will also be in the courtroom with live updates.

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