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RECAP: Jessica Chambers Trial Day 3


(When the Jessica Chambers trial is in session we will be airing the testimony live in the player above. When the trial is on break, we will be providing legal analysis)

Melissa Jones, our freelance producer, is providing these live updates from the courthouse in Mississippi. Please refresh your browser to make sure you are seeing the latest details. 

9:55 am ET:

Jurors are expected to take a site visit which will include where Chambers was found outside her burning car by first responders; M&M First Stop convenience store, and Quinton Tellis’ home.

11:30 am ET:

The jury is at the scene of the burning. They are walking the scene, looking around.

11:51 am ET:
All that remains in the area where the car was burned is a burnt pine tree.

11:50 am ET:
Looking at the ditch where Jesssica’s keys were found 11:50

11:55 am ET:
The jury is now at the Courtland firehouse. 11:55

12:15 pm ET:
The jury is now looking at the shed where Quinton Tellis admitted to having gasoline and survillence video shows a car pulled up to that night.

12:20 pm ET:

Jury sees access road that leads to Quinton Tellis’ sister’s house. Prosecutors theorize that Tellis may have taken this route from crime scene to sister to borrow her car.

12:37 pm ET:

The jury is now at the M&M gas station, the last place Jessica was seen alive.

1:00 pm ET:

The defendant is on the jury view with jurors. He is not handcuffed or shackled, wearing khakis and green striped shirt.

1:04 pm ET:

The last stop the jury was was to an area behind Quinton Tellis’ home where Tellis said he and Jessica had sex.
The jury is now heading back to the courthouse.

3:17 pm ET:

A nurse practitioner with the burn unit at the Med, a trauma center in Memphis, is next on the stand.

Mary Beth Hall stated she was on duty the night of December 6, 2014 when she was notified a burn patient was being flown in via helicopter.

She testified as to how she prepared for Jessica’s arrival. Setting up intubation equipment for possible airway obstruction and setting up vital IV lines.

She testified about the degrees of Jessica’s burns. She stated Jessica had mainly 3rd degree burns and maybe a few 2nd degree burns.

The burns on her chest were so deep the air wouldn’t go into her lungs so she called for an anesthesiologist to come to help Jessica breath.

Hall said her injuries were non-survivable so they started what they call comfort care which was basically a morphine drip and dressing to keep her comfortable.

Hall also testified that Jessica’s burns we’re so deep they couldn’t pick up 02 stats from her fingers her toes or her ears. “Her skin was cold” she added.

As she read from her notes she also read where Jessica’s blood pressure began to drop and it was at that point they called the family in to tell them there was nothing more they could do.

93% of her body was badly burned. Death was called at 2:36 am

3:20 pm ET:

Dr. Erin Barnhart, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for Jackson, MS, at the time of Jessica’s death though she works in Texas now.

She performed the autopsy on Jessica.

In her external examination, Dr. Barnhart noted that there was no sexual trauma. She also noted 93% burns to her body. From her report she read that Jessica had 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her face, scalp, neck, chest and back; 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her arms and front of legs. The only areas not burned we’re her groin, buttocks, soles of feet and rear side of upper thighs. The only other injuries noted were to her airways which contained soot.

She also noted Jessica was 5’4″ and weighed 104 lbs.

They then displayed the photos taken at the autopsy. Her face, her body and then her airway after it had been removed.

She ended her direct testimony by saying she ruled Jessica’s death a homicide.

During cross examination the defense asked Dr. Barnhart about the toxicology report. Asking if there was marijuana in her system. Dr Barnhart said there was marijuana and also nicotine.

4:57 pm ET

Dr. William Hickerson, the director of the Med trauma center took the stand. He was contacted the night Jessica Chambers was brought in. He was sent updates and photographs by the attending physician who he identified as Dr. Michael Van Vliet.  His initial impression was that he thought she had 95% burns that the majority were 3rd degree (burns that go all the way through the skin). He stated her survival rate when she arrived was “esentialy none”.

Dr. Hickerson demonstrated on the autopsy photos where Dr. Van Vliet had made incisions into Jessica’s body because she couldn’t breathe due to the burns making her skin stiff.  Even with a tube inserted, he added, they couldn’t get enough air pressure into Jessica unless they relieved the tightness of her burned flesh which would allow the lungs to expand.

When shown the autopsy photo of the face, Dr. Hickerson pointed out that her entire face had 3rd degree burns.

From the autopsy photo of the body, Dr. Hickerson said that the buttocks and genitalia areas were not burned which indicated to him that she was sitting when she was burned and that she was in an enclosed space.

He went on to describe physicological shock and psychological shock.

He also testified that this (Jessica’s injury) was not a common burn nor one they see in burn centers.

He said her lips would not move, her tongue would not work right and she would not have been able to enunciate from the steam, inhaling  the chemicals contained in a fire and the heat.

He also said that she simply just did not have enough air to speak correctly.

5:00 pm ET

Chief Investigator Barry Thompson was called back to the stand at about 4:00 local time this afternoon (5:00 Eastern).
Thompson testified that due to the high profile and very unusual nature of this case, he had all types of agencies calling him to help with the investigation.  He testified that he accepted any and all help offered and a “war room” was set up to handle all of the evidence and  information.  The FBI, MBI, ATF and U.S. Marshall Service assisted.
Thompson estimated more than 15 people with the name “Eric” or “Derrick” were interviewed, but none developed into a “viable suspect.”
Investigators then made “contact ” interviews with several people. A contact interview is an informal interview where Miranda rights are read but the person being interviewed is not necessarily a suspect. One of these contact interviews was with Quinton Tellis.
On December 10, 2014, Tellis was Mirandized, read his rights, and initialed each line of a Miranda form indicating he understood and waived his rights. Tellis agreed to talk to investigators.
Investigators asked how Tellis knew Chambers and his whereabouts on the day of the fire.  Tellis said he met Chambers through Kesha Myers. Myers gave Chambers’ number to Tellis. When they hung out, they would ride around and “cut blocks” or smoke marijuana. Tellis admitted to having sex one time with Jessica but claimed he was at a local hangout area called the “sandbox” when the crime occurred.
Tellis told investigators that he was with “Big Mike” (Michael Sanford) and “Tootie” (Terry Shegog).
Tellis then told investigators that Derrick Holmes had been stalking Jessica.
Investigators then asked Tellis for a DNA sample. Tellis signed a waiver and provided a sample.
During cross, defense attorney Alton Peterson asked Thompson his position in the chain of command. Thompson replied it was the sheriff, the chief deputy, and then himself.
Peterson asked Thompson who was in charge of interviews, investigations, evidence collection, and related matters.
Thompson said no evidence resulted from a search and rescue team walking local roads the night Chambers was burned.
Thompson said that the reason they chose to interview Tellis in the first place was from finding his number off Jessica’s cell phone records. Thompson testified that the interview with Tellis was very casual and non accusatory. “I wouldn’t say he was a suspect at the time. It was just someone who knew her . . . we questioned hundreds of folks this way.”
Thompson said it was his understanding that Kesha Myers introduced Tellis to Chambers and that Tellis got Chambers’ number from Myers. (Myers testified on Day 1 of the trial that Chambers introduced her to Tellis.)
Under defense questioning, Peterson said he did not know exactly when Tellis was at the “standbox” with the two others he mentioned, only a time frame or an approximate time. Peterson shot back by asking how he could ask Tellis where he was at the time of the crime if he didn’t even know the time of the crime.
Thompson testified that he did talk to Derrick Holmes, the name given to him by Tellis as a possible suspect. Holmes is a registered sex offender in the area.
Peterson then asked Thompson if had been out to the crime scene or the Tellis home. Thompson said that he had but had never collected any evidence or taken any pictures.
Peterson asked if there was list of “Erics” that were interviewed. Thompson said there was not.
Peterson asked if everything pertaining to the case was kept in a so-called “war room” conference room at the sheriff’s department. He said, “not all of the time.”
During redirect by the state, Thompson said items from the scene tested positive for gasoline, the accelerant prosecutors believe was used to burn Chambers’ car and body.
Thompson testified that Tellis did admit to having sex with Chambers once and that he was only with Chambers until about noon the day she was set on fire.
The jury then told the judge it could go on a little longer. The judge called a brief recess.
6:45 pm ET
FBI Special Agent Dustin Blount took the stand shortly after 5:45pm CT.

Agent Blount testified that on the 18th of December he felt there was a need to re-interview Quenton Tellis and went out to his residence. He testified that Tellis was cooperative.  Blount said that Tellis told him he was introduced to Jessica through Keisha Meyers at M&M grocery.  He stated that Tellis told him he and Jessica had a sexual relationship. Mr Tellis pointed to a side yard south of his house as the location where he and Jessica had sex in her car.  Blount said Tellis told him that they had sex in the reclined  passenger seat he was sitting in and Jessica was on top of him.

Tellis told Blount that they had gone to a liquor and once to an emergency room because Jessica had a cold.  “Outside of that the rest of their time together was just in the Courtland area,” Blount said.

He said Tellis told him that on Dec 5 he was hanging out drinking alcohol in his front yard in “Mike’s” white SUV and Laquinta (Tootie) Tellis and Shalanda Sandford were with him. Tellis told Blount that Jessica called him asking for money. Shortly thereafter he met Jessica across the street at m & m grocery where he gave her $10.

On the morning of Dec 6, 2014, Tellis told Blount that he was riding around with Keisha Myers and Jessica Chambers and the two girls were smoking weed. But they dropped him off at home. Tellis told Blount that later that day Jessica called him for more money but never showed up. Tellis did not tell Blount he saw Jessica anymore that day.

Tellis told the FBI agent that onSaturday night he walked over to M&M Grocery and that’s when he learned what happened to Jessica. He told Blount that he had been to Batesville to buy a green dot card.  After purchasing the card, he went back to Courtland and saw blue lights, he pulled over on the side of the road.

Tellis told Blount that when he asked who did it, he was told at the gas station that “Rosco” had killed Jessica.

Tellis then told Blount after learning of her death, he deleted everything pertaining to Jessica off his cell phone.

He then took Blount to the shed where he kept a dirt bike which was Tellis’ main form of transportation.  While in the shed, Blount asked Tellis about a gasoline container and Tellis said that was his.

Blount testified that later he went to the Fred’s store in Batesville where Tellis said he bought the Green Dot card and looked at their surveillance tapes. A photo was shown which depicted Tellis buying the card.

During cross, defense attorney Alton Peterson, asked if he had interviewed Tellis any other times. Blount answered, “no”.

Peterson then asked Blount’s opinion of the relationship between Jessica and Tellis He question whether or not there was any hostility. He indicated they were friends.

“On the same day they had sex, Tellis and Jessica rode to.a liquor store but it was closed,” Blount read from his report.


Peterson asked where Blount made reference in his report that Tellis and Chambers would “ride around” numerous times.

Peterson asked Blount whether or not Tellis told him “whose” or “which” car they were riding in when they “rode around”. Blount admitted it was not noted in his report. But later found it noted once that they were in her car.

Peterson asked Blount if Tellis told him what day he and Jessica had sex but Blount said Quinton couldn’t recall.

Peterson also pointed out that although Blount noted in his report that Tellis told him he had deleted all the communication on his cell phone, Blount neglected to ask Tellis why.

Peterson then asked if there was anything on the Green Dot Card  purchase picture that indicated what time that picture was taken. Blount said Tellis willfully agreed to let the FBI look at the information on his phone.

During cross, the state showed Mr. Champion two photos of Tellis buying the green dot card. One large and one small. Mr Champion asked Blount  what the difference between the two was. The large photo had the time stamp cut off while the small picture still retained the time which was Dec 6 at 8:26pm.

Update 7:59 pm ET

The final witness to be called today was Katherine Rogers.

Ms. Rogers identified herself as an forensic DNA specialist with Scales Biological Laboratory.

The state asked Ms. Rogers if she had tested a set of keys for DNA.  She testified that she ran 2 different tests on the keys to attain a DNA profile. Rogers testified she attained a mixture of DNA from various aspects of the keys such as the key chain, the lanyard etc.

She found a mixture of male chromosomes that contained at least 4 individuals.

Derrick Holmes was excluded as a possible DNA chromosome mixture but Quinton Tellis could not be but added neither could any of his paternal relatives.

Rogers was not able to tie Quentin Tellis to any other pieces evidence she tested.

1 in 359 males could not be excluded.

Rogers would not say that Tellis’ DNA was on the keys just that it couldn’t be excluded.

During cross, the defense asked Rogers “when” the DNA got on the keys. Ms. Rogers said they could not tell. Ms Rogers said out of the Y chromosome mixture there were 4 male contributors and 1 was Quinton Tellis  but they didn’t know who 2 were.

Witness excused

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