Jury Fails To Convict Quinton Tellis Of Jessica Chambers’ Burning Death For 2nd Time
Judge Chatham declared a mistrial on October 1, and prosecutors must now decide if they will try Quinton Tellis yet again for Jessica Chambers' death.
PANOLA COUNTY, MS — For the second time in almost a year, a hung jury was unable to deliver a verdict in the capital murder case against Quinton Tellis, the man accused of dousing Jessica Chambers with gasoline and lighting her on fire in December 2014.
“I use my faith in God,” Chambers’ mom, Lisa Daugherty, said before Tellis’ most recent murder trial began. “He gives me hope that there will be justice for Jessica. We will find out who did it.”
But Judge Gerald Chatham declared a mistrial in the case on October 1, and prosecutors must now decide if they will try Tellis yet again for the 19-year-old former cheerleader’s death.
"We've talked about for the last year, how do we make ourselves better?" said District Attorney John Champion of the latest trial, which ended in an evenly split 6-6 decision. “We had 12 wonderful jurors who did their job, and they just couldn't agree.”
Prosecutors tried to make their case using, among other evidence, telephone records and video surveillance that placed Tellis and Chambers together around Courtland, Mississippi, on the day of the attack.
However, in addition to conflicting DNA test results and varying eyewitness accounts, Champion felt his case may have encountered the most problems again because of testimony from multiple first responders who said they heard Chambers utter what sounded to them like the name “Eric” or “Derek” when asked about her attacker. Prosecutors called experts who stated Chambers wouldn’t be able to speak after she suffered burns over nearly her entire body and was on fire for what could have been several minutes, but it wasn’t enough to sway some jurors.
"I believe the firefighters heard something, and it went viral. They’re good people, they really are, and they do a volunteer service, and I'm not going to sit here and degrade any of them for what they said,” insisted Champion, who believes Chambers murder was “very, very personal.”
A potential mistrial in the case was being debated online after a woman who snuck a camera into the courtroom posted a photo of the jurors on Facebook. Despite this occurrence, it reportedly did not have anything to do with the mistrial.
Tellis’ defense lawyer, Alton Peterson, said he and his client were “disappointed the jury didn’t find him not guilty.”
Tellis, 29, will now be extradited back to Louisiana, where he faces an indictment in the death of 34-year-old Meing-Chen Hsiao, a former graduate exchange student from Taiwan who was found stabbed to death in August 2015.
Tellis previously pleaded not guilty to Hsiao’s murder, but he admitted in May he charged more than $2,000 on her stolen debit card.