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Watch Live: Jessica Chambers Murder Trial Day 3


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Court continues Thursday in the capital murder trial of Quinton Verdell Tellis, 29. Prosecutors say he’s the person who fatally set 19-year-old Jessica Chambers and her car on fire back on December 6, 2014. The defendant faces life in prison if convicted. This is the second trial. The last ended in a hung jury.

Jurors are scheduled to visit the crime scene on Thursday.

In opening statements Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale said testimony will show Tellis had no believable alibi, there were no other viable suspects, and investigators were thorough in exploring leads. Defense co-counsel Darla Palmer said that Chambers repeatedly told first responders that an “Eric” was responsible for the arson, that the state’s expert witnesses could not dismiss that the victim said “Eric,” and that investigators were, in fact, not thorough enough in searching for evidence.

Early witnesses included speech pathologist Dr. Carolyn Higdon, who said Chambers’ burns rendered her unable to utter articulate speech. (In closing statements last time, 17th Circuit Court District Attorney John Champion argued that Chambers might have been trying to say “Tellis” instead of Eric.)

On Tuesday, volunteer fighters–the first responders who found Chambers badly burnt–testified that the victim repeatedly said an “Eric” did this to her. Daniel Cole, Director of Emergency of Operations for Panola County, said her tongue was swollen, and it became more difficult for her to talk as time went on. Former firefighter Cole Hale said she mispronounced her name as “Tambers.” She was, however, able to say other things, and ask for water, he said.

On Wednesday, witnesses continued to testify that Chambers identified her killer as an “Eric.” She described this man as black, according to according to Panola County Sheriff’s Deputy Chuck Tucker.

Dr. Erin Barnhart testified about performing the autopsy on Chambers. The victim sustained second and third degree burns, she said. ATF agent Matthew Simon said the victim’s burnt bra tested positive for gasoline.

Prosecutors also brought up a new witness. Sherry Rena Flowers did not testify in the last trial. On Wednesday, she said she saw a man on the night of the murder, and believed he might have been her cousin, but it was not. He asked for a ride, and she accepted, according to her testimony. She did not identify this man as Tellis, nor did she report seeing any emergency vehicles or lights.

According to Flowers, the man said his aunt’s house was on fire, and he needed a ride. She dropped him off at U.S. Route 51. Prosecutors are attempting to show that this man was Tellis. Julia Chambers (no relation to Jessica) testified that she lived at the residence cited by the hitchhiker in Flowers’ account.

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