Who Burned Jessica Chambers Alive? Internet Sleuths Are Trying to Find Out

June 29, 2015
By: Terri Osborne

Quinton Tellis

Quinton Tellis

A man has been indicted in the grisly December 2014 burning death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers near Cortland, Mississippi.

According to People, Quinton Tellis, 27, was the last person seen with Chambers on the night she died, and the district attorney called him a “habitual offender” who kept lying to police. He wouldn’t discuss a possible motive, but said he believes Tellis acted alone.

Tellis, 27, is being indicted on a capital murder charge for the case. He was, according to Fox 8, arrested on three counts of unauthorized use of a credit card associated with a different homicide victim, an exchange student from Taiwan.

Tellis is being held in Louisiana on the credit-card charges. He and Chambers reportedly grew up in the same neighborhood.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Back in December, we brought you the terrible story of Jessica Chambers, a teenage girl who was set on fire and left for dead in the small town of Courtland, Mississippi.

When Chambers succumbed to her injuries, one question remained on the minds of most everyone in Courtland. In a town so small that everyone knows pretty much everyone else, who could have done such a thing to Jessica? Six months later, that question remains unanswered.

Authorities are still mystified about why the $54,000 reward hasn’t generated any credible leads. One consideration, though: Tons of random Web sleuth groups and blogs have sprung up with netizens determined to crack the case themselves — and it’s unclear whether that’s been anything resembling good news for her murder.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Chambers’ mom, Lisa Daugherty, says she’s constantly harangued by random people. In one Facebook message, a stranger listed off gruesome details she’d supposedly heard about Chambers’ death, asking Daugherty to verify whether they were true: “She was so burnt, her fingers were gone, her skin was crisp and falling off, her tongue was gone and she died alone wandering for help which arrived too late.”

BuzzFeed notes that when Chambers’ mom gets exasperated — which she does sometimes — they “accuse her of being evasive or sending them on a ‘wild-goose chase.'”

Chambers had last been seen that Saturday night filling up her car at McCullar’s First Stop gas station. The clerk, Ali Fahdel, had noted that she spent more on the fill-up than usual. Chambers told Fahdel that she was going to meet someone. Fahdel said he didn’t want to be nosy, so he didn’t ask any further. Unfortunately, the moment Fahdel’s name became associated with the case, death threats began to come in. He was accused of being in gangs, or even being an Islamic terrorist. Today, even though police have long since removed him from the list of potential suspects, he has refused to confirm his location to news sources because of the threats.

Investigators have spent months painstakingly putting together the details of Chambers’ final hours. They have managed to map out everything except the last hour of her life. She had reportedly been home until between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. that night. She received a phone call, and then left the house. Police have spoken with that caller, and do not believe that person has anything to do with Chambers’ death.

When she left, Chambers reportedly told her mother she was going to get some food and to clean out her car. She allegedly stopped by someone’s home in Courtland for a few minutes a little before 6:00 p.m. before being spotted in Batesville shortly thereafter on security video in her car. By 6:30, she was back in Courtland. At that point, her timeline goes dark.

Federal, state, and local authorities have all the evidentiary information they could get from Chambers’ body and the grim-looking burned-out vehicle. The only piece missing is the identity of the killer. Investigators have spoken to more than 100 people over the last six months, and a few names keep cropping up in interviews, but they won’t reveal who. The tiny town is terrified.

This gruesome small-town death has, as mentioned, stoked the obsession of a host of amateur sleuths. Unfortunately, Fahdel wasn’t the only one to feel their wrath. Other locals are becoming the targets of random theories and accusations, while some folks travel to the town to investigate the case themselves. While the Internet sleuths haven’t necessarily caused extensive issues at this point, locals understandably wish they’d go away and let police do their jobs.

In a recent interview with local reporters, the lead homicide investigator claims the case is headed in a good direction. For her part, Chambers’ mom told BuzzFeed she will continue to engage with the folks trying to help find her daughter’s killer: “I don’t want to close the computer, because I don’t want to close my eyes. If I close them, I see her burning.” FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

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