In late September 2018, prosecutors in Panola County, Mississippi geared up to commence the retrial of Quinton Tellis, a 29-year-old known criminal, in the case of the horrific murder of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers. Over the years, there’s been a lot of information regarding the case circulating the news outlets, but how much is known about the accused murderer? Read this Quinton Tellis wiki to find out everything you need to know about Tellis and the events surrounding his latest trial.
The Jessica Chambers Murder Case
On the night of December 6, 2014, Jessica Chambers was found walking through a wooded area on the side of the road in Courtland, Mississippi. She and her car were drenched in gasoline and then set ablaze by an unknown assailant.
By the time first responders arrived on the scene, the car was so badly burned that all of the paint had melted off, while 98% of Chambers’ body was covered in serious burns. Chambers succumbed to her injuries in a Memphis hospital early the next morning.
A 14-month-long investigation ensued that caused a great deal of confusion and misdirection in terms of who the suspect was, until local resident Quinton Tellis was officially indicted in February 2016.
Quinton Tellis; Photo: Facebook via Heavy
During the initial trial, in October 2017, the jury had a hard time reaching a unanimous verdict. In an infamous recording of the final proceedings in the case, there seemed to be some confusion among jurors as to exactly what a “unanimous verdict” meant. This prompted the judge to declare a mistrial.
Just under a year after the original trial, the case was being re-tried in the same court by the same judge, with opening statements commencing on September 24, 2018.
Quinton Tellis: His Early Life
Quinton Verdell Tellis was born on October 6, 1988, in Courtland, Mississippi, to his mother Rebecca Tellis.
Not much is known about his father, who is reportedly deceased. He did grow up with two older sisters, Shaneeka Williams and Laqunta Tellis, however.
The small rural town of Courtland, located about 145 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi, has a population of only 500. Interestingly, it’s the same town Jessica Chambers called home. And both Tellis and Chambers attended South Panola High School, although the two were seven years apart in age.
Tellis had spent most of his life in Panola County, Mississippi, before moving to Monroe, Louisiana in the summer of 2015.
This Isn’t His First Rodeo
Quinton Tellis has a colorful history with the law. In fact, when he was first charged with the gruesome murder of Jessica Chambers on February 24, 2016, he was already serving a five-year sentence in a Mississippi state prison for using a stolen debit card that belonged to a Taiwanese exchange student at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, who’d been murdered.
Tellis has since been charged with first-degree murder in this case as well and will be prosecuted as soon as the Jessica Chambers retrial ends.
While he has admitted to using the debit card, he vehemently denies stabbing its original owner, 34-year-old Meing-Chen Hsiao, to death.
He’s spent the latter half of his 20s in and out of jail for various less-serious crimes such as robbery and fleeing police custody.
According to Mississippi Department of Corrections records, he was sentenced to five years for fleeing law enforcement officials in 2010.
In December 2011, not long after his release for the previous crime, he was convicted of residential burglary and sentenced to another five years.
Two months later, he faced another residential burglary conviction, for which he was sentenced to eight years.
He was released from prison on the burglary convictions in October 2014. Chambers’ burning death came two months later.
For more on the victim in this case, see: Jessica Chambers Wiki: Teen Set on Fire Names Murderer with Dying Breath?
Quinton Knew Jessica Chambers
According to the prosecution in this case and Jessica’s parents, she and Tellis knew each other for a short period of time leading up to her untimely death.
Evidence such as text messages that were exchanged by the two show that they’d been together the day of her death and that he’d solicited her for sex numerous times. However, she’d declined every time.
It’s speculated that they did end up having sex in her car right before the time she was set on fire.
It’s alleged that Tellis strangled her in an attempt to kill her. Apparently believing that he’d succeeded, he then allegedly proceeded to douse the car and Jessica with gasoline and then set them both on fire.
He’s Married to His Prison Pen Pal
Back in 2015, just a few days before Quinton Tellis was arrested for using the stolen debit card, he got married to his prison pen pal, Chakita Jackson. The pair initially met when she started writing to him while he was in prison for burglary charges.
The newlyweds relocated to Monroe, Louisiana shortly after celebrating their nuptials in Courtland.
October 9, 2017 – First Trial Begins
Jury selection in the first trial began on Monday, October 9, 2017. Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen from Pike County—more than 200 miles south of Panola County—due to fears that pre-trial publicity had influenced local residents.
They remained sequestered for the entirety of the trial, which would end in a mistrial seven days later on October 16. The jurors were deadlocked.
Tellis Allegedly Has an Alibi
During the initial Jessica Chambers murder trial, Tellis’ defense attorney, Darla Palmer, claimed that her client had an alibi and therefore couldn’t have been the killer. At that time, prosecutors were arguing that he was the last person to see Jessica alive right before her violent death.
Palmer argued that while Jessica was being burned alive, her client was at a store in Batesville purchasing a pre-paid debit card for his then-girlfriend, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to corroborate that story.
Tellis and His Family Maintain His Innocence
Despite all of the evidence presented against Quinton Tellis by the prosecution—the text messages soliciting sex from Jessica the day of her death and his fingerprints being found on her car keys at the scene of the crime—not to mention his past convictions, he and his family continue to maintain his innocence.
Tellis, his mother Rebecca, and sister Shaneeka Williams participated in a docu-series produced by the Oxygen network, Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers.
“I just felt like [police investigators] were really harassing me,” Tellis said in the series, which premiered in September 2018. “I just feel like they was [sic] trying to make something with me out of nothing.”
Rebecca questioned why police didn’t confiscate a gas can her son admitted to having in his shed following his arrest. Moreover, Rebecca said, authorities didn’t search the shed at all. Prosecutors have said that Chambers and her black Kia Rio were soaked with gasoline before being set on fire.
An FBI special agent testified during the original trial that Tellis informed him of the gas can in his shed nearly two weeks after Chambers died.
In the show, both Rebecca and Williams assert that Quinton Tellis is incapable of murder.
“My brother’s not a killer,” Williams said. According to Williams, her brother also passed a lie detector test.
Surveillance Footage of Jessica Chambers before Her Death
Just 90 minutes before her death, video surveillance was taken of Jessica Chambers fueling up her vehicle at a gas station that was close to the woods where she would later meet her demise. In the video, she can be seen waving at someone off camera and walking towards them.
As she was briefly filling up gas in her car, a man wearing a striped shirt can be seen filling up a gas can next to her.
The man, who can also be seen walking away off camera, was originally suspected as potentially being Jessica’s killer, but he was cleared of all charges throughout the investigation.
Could It Have Been Someone Else?
According to a written statement given to police by one of the first responders who arrived on the scene, Cole Haley, apparently Chambers had attempted to name her attacker but her mouth was “charred black” and she had trouble speaking properly. Haley claimed that it sounded like Chambers uttered the name “Derrick” or “Eric,” but it was extremely difficult to understand her.
Investigators exhausted interviewing all the potential Derricks and Erics Chambers might have known and ruled them out as suspects, however.
Quinton Tellis’ Retrial Begins
Tellis’ retrial began on Monday, September 24, 2018. This time around, jurors were selected in Oktibbeha County—120 miles away from Batesville, the trial’s location. During opening statements the next day, defense attorney Darla Palmer returned to the name first-responder witnesses would testify to hearing Chambers say at the scene: Eric.
“This evidence is always going to show, it’s always going to say Eric did it, no matter what the state does to diminish that, and we would ask that you find Quinton not guilty,” Palmer said.
Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale directed jurors instead to cell phone tower evidence, which he said would place Tellis in the same area as Chambers at the time of the arson.
On the third day of the trial, prosecutors introduced a new witness: Sherry Flowers. The Courtland resident said she picked up an unfamiliar hitchhiker that fateful night along the side of the road—where Chambers’ car keys were later found. She described the stranger as a black man who appeared to be in his early 20s.
According to Flowers, the unidentified man asked for a ride to the home of his aunt, Julia Chambers, because it had recently caught fire. Julia Chambers, who is distantly related to Tellis but not the victim Jessica, later testified that there had been an incident involving a microwave at her home on the night of the murder. However, she claimed, Tellis never showed up to her residence that evening.
Tellis faced life in prison without parole if convicted.
A Second Mistrial
On Monday, October 1, 2018, Panola County Circuit Judge Gerald Chatham declared a second mistrial. After two days of deliberation, jurors were again unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
The district attorney’s office has not confirmed whether the case will be retried.
Tellis is expected to return to Louisiana, where he faces a second murder indictment in the Hsiao stabbing death.