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BATESVILLE, Miss. — Prosecutors called their first witnesses in the Jessica Chambers murder trial on Tuesday. First on the stand was Chambers’ mother, Lisa Chambers, who detailed the last few days of her daughter’s life. Friday night, the day before her death, Lisa stated she didn’t see her daughter and by the time she woke up Saturday morning, Jessica was already gone. She believed her daughter to be at work. She stated Jessica returned home around 1 p.m. then immediately headed back out to go to the store for some cigarettes. Once she returned, Jessica went and took a nap until she received a phone call later that evening. The mother said she didn’t know who the call was from but Jessica took the call in the bathroom. Around 5:15 p.m., Jessica told her mother she was going to get food and clean out her car. She said she would be back shortly.
At 6:48 p.m., Lisa spoke with her daughter again but said that call was a little strange. She said under normal circumstances Jessica would have the music blaring in the background or it would be extremely loud. However, during this call there was silence. When asked by prosecutors how she took that call, Lisa stated she inferred that meant someone was with her. But she couldn’t say who it was. Later that night, she was notified by her ex-husband’s wife that Jessica had been badly burned. She rushed to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis where she was told by doctors that her daughter sustained burns to 93 to 98 percent of her body. They also stated the 19-year-old would not survive the injuries. Lisa was the last person to speak to Jessica alive. Before handing the witness over to the defense, District Attorney John Champion also had Lisa identify Jessica’s keys.

Part One: Opening statements/ Ms. Chambers/ Meyer

The second witness to take the stand was Lakesha Meyer, a close friend of Jessica Chamber’s before her death in December 2014. She said the two saw each other quite often and would talk and text each other on a regular basis. She told the jury Jessica picked her up the Wednesday before her death. The next day the two were at a local hangout spot called M&M’s or Girly’s when Jessica introduced the defendant, Quinton Tellis as simply a friend. She specifically noted Jessica didn’t tell her Tellis’ name. On Friday, she said the three got back together and road around the area for a little while. She said she and Jessica smoked marijuana before dropping Quinton off. On Saturday, she said Jessica and Quinton picked her up before 9 a.m. and again they rode around the area until noon when she was dropped off. Lakesha told the jury she didn’t see or hear from Jessica again that night, but later learned Jessica had planned to take her to Memphis as a surprise.

Part Two: Dr. Carolyn Higdon

After a short recess, the prosecution called Dr. Carolyn Higdon, a speech language pathology expert, who testified about what it takes for the body to produce sound. She said having injured lungs, mouth and larynx – like what Jessica Chambers had- would affect the ability to make any articulate sound. She stated that based on her experience and given the severity of what she saw though the autopsy, Chambers would not have been able to make individual sounds.  When asked specifically if she would have been able to say “Eric’ or “Derrick”, Dr. Higdon said no. In fact, she lost her ability to communication within minutes, Higdon said.

Part Three: First responders

Cole Haley, one of the first rescuers who responded to the scene, described hearing Chambers quietly say “help me.” Haley read his statement from the scene in court, and said if he’d had a few more days he could’ve made it more detailed. “I sat there and held her hand. That’s all I could do. I said, ‘Sweetheart, it’s going to be okay,’ and she said, ‘I’m going to die.'” Another first responder described Chambers walking out of the woods “like a zombie.” He asked her what her name was, if anybody else was in the vehicle with her and what happened. He understood all of her answers, even though her voice was very deep and coming in/out. She was having trouble breathing. That’s when she said “Eric had set her on fire.”

Part Four

The director of Panola County Emergency Operations said he heard Chambers say her name was Tessica, Jessica and even Courtney at one point. He gave her pin so she could write down her name, but she was too badly burned. He heard her say “Eric” when asked who was responsible. She shrugged her shoulders when asked what “Eric’s” last name was.

Part Five

Another volunteer firefighter who was at the scene that night said he was the fourth or fifth one there. He said the scene was too loud to hear anything. Later on, he says he tried to ask Chambers who did this to her, but all she could do was make a noise. This is the same firefighter was reported seeing a suspicious person near the scene. He said he had to ask the suspicious person to leave three times before he finally did. “He just had a blank stare on his face. I’ve never seen a state like that in my life. He stared right through you.” Another volunteer firefighter testified and said she arrived with her husband to the scene in their personal vehicle. They’re both volunteer fire fighters in the nearby town of Pope. She’s the fourth person to testify that she heard Chambers say “Eric” was the one who set her on fire. The final witness of the day was a paramedic who testified that he heard Chambers say “Eric” or “Derek” was responsible.

Background information

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 keychain 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. Bridget Chapman will also be in the courtroom with live updates.