A 2nd Mistrial in Perplexing Death of Jessica Chambers

Quinton Tellis was accused of Mississippi 19-year-old's burning death
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2018 10:40 AM CDT
Was Her Dying Word 'Eric'? Testimony, Then a Mistrial
Deputy Prosecutor Jay Hale holds up a picture of Jessica Chambers on the first day of the retrial of Quinton Tellis in Batesville, Miss., on Sept. 25 2018.   (Brad Vest/The Commercial Appeal via AP, Pool)

When first Mississippi responders came upon Jessica Chambers, she had been set on fire and was covered in second- and third-degree burns; she reportedly uttered "Eric did this to me," before dying. Attorneys for Quinton Tellis, the man on trial for her December 2014 death, argued that made for reasonable doubt, reports BuzzFeed. At least some members of the jury apparently had it: A judge on Monday declared a mistrial in the case. Tellis' first trial, in 2017, ended in a mistrial as well. Tellis was arrested in early 2016 after the local DA said a break in the perplexing case came via "technological data" like cellphone records; a DOJ analyst told the court Saturday that Tellis' phone data indicates he was with Chambers the night she died and that he wiped Chambers' texts and info from his phone after her death.

BuzzFeed notes that Chambers' father had previously said Tellis' name wasn't known to the family, and the prosecution in this trial described a relationship between Chambers and Tellis that was only a week old. The Clarion Ledger reports the prosecution sought to chip away at the "Eric" detail: The medical director at the Firefighters Burn Center estimated she had been on fire for as long as five minutes, and he and a speech pathologist both testified that they don't believe the 19-year-old was capable of intelligible speech based on the severity of her burns. Tellis' attorney, Alton Peterson, thought doubt remained: "When you have eight trained first responders who were there on the scene ... it's hard to get around her telling them with her dying breaths that someone else did it." FOX13 reports prosecutors plan to "assess things" and then announce if they'll try Tellis a third time. (Read more Jessica Chambers stories.)

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