Chambers' last words major topic as retrial of Quinton Tellis begins

PANOLA COUNTY, MS (WMC) - Testimony began Tuesday in the second trial of Quinton Tellis - the man charged with killing North Mississippi teenager Jessica Chambers.

Chambers was burned alive and left to die on a rural road in Courtland, Mississippi, in December of 2014.

She later died at a hospital with burns to 98 percent of her body.

Prosecutors indicted 29-year-old Tellis 14 months later.

He said he was an acquaintance of Chambers, but he has maintained his innocence.

Both the defense and the prosecution gave opening statements before witnesses started taking the stand Tuesday.

Prosecutor Jay Hale, in opening statements, told jurors that Tellis was the last person who talked with Chambers on the phone. He addressed the elephant in the room, that jurors would first hear from first responders who testified that Chambers told them someone named Eric set her on fire.

Tellis' defense attorneys focused on what they knew was coming--testimony that the 19-year-old’s injuries were so severe she could not have said anything understandable.

“She walked and she talked that evening...wouldn’t expect someone in that condition could do," Tellis' attorney Darla Palmer said.

Jessica’s mother Lisa was the first prosecution witness called, telling the court she last saw her daughter around noon the day she died.

“She either got a text message or a phone call,” she said.

Chambers best friend Lakesha Myer testified that she, Chambers and Tellis rode around several times in the day leading up to her death. She testified that she and Chambers were smoking marijuana and said Jessica was the one driving.

Myer testified the only thing Jessica said about Tellis was that she liked the way he looked.

Prosecutors called a speech pathologist who testified Chambers could not have told first responders that Eric set her on fire because of her severe burns.

But defense attorneys argued that the speech pathologist was only familiar with the injuries after Chambers arrived at Regional Medical Center when she had deteriorated significantly.

“I asked who did this to you: ‘Eric.’ I said who what is his last name: ‘Eric,’" Courtland firefighter Brandi Davis said.

“I said, ‘Jessica what happened?’ She said Eric set her on fire," first responder Jodi Morris said.

One difference from the last trial was the first responders testifies Chambers said a lot more on the scene than Eric set her on fire, making the possibility she said Eric even more likely.

The jury for the retrial was selected Monday and bused in from another county 120 miles away from Batesville.

Last year‘s trial, which ended in a mistrial when jurors were unable to reach a verdict, lasted seven days.

The judge said this new trial could last from five to seven days.

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