The murder trial of Quinton Tellis in connection with the horrific burning death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers has begun in Mississippi.
The trial, which began on Tuesday, will reportedly last up to two weeks, and dozens of witnesses are expected to testify.
Chambers had been set on fire on a rural back road in Courtland, Mississippi, on the night of December 6, 2014, when paramedics and police found her. She was still alive and conscious, but died a few hours later in the hospital.
Officials say that Chambers was last seen walking toward a gas station around 90 minutes before her death.
During opening remarks, prosecutors alleged that Tellis — whom Jessica’s family were aware knew Jessica for around 12 days — tried to suffocate her after the two had sex in her car that night. Tellis then doused Chambers’ car with gasoline and set both it and her on fire, according to the prosecution.
“When we start showing you the number of lies that he told and how he had to when he’s confronted with the physical evidence and the cell phone data, there was no way out for him,” DeSoto County, Mississippi, District Attorney John Champion said.
But Tellis’ defense attorney Darla Palmer argued that her client could not have been responsible, because he was at a store purchasing a pre-paid debit card at the time of the attack. Palmer also stressed the fact that Jessica allegedly told police that another person attacked her as she was dying.
“She said, ‘Eric set me on fire,’ ” Palmer argued in court. “She didn’t say any other name, she didn’t mention any other person. She said, ‘Eric did this to me.’ … She didn’t know the person’s last name. She knew Quinton. Quinton Tellis is his name.”
Champion said Chambers’ body was so damaged from burns that she may not have been able to speak.
Tellis was indicted in her death in February 2016, and is also suspected in the death of a second woman. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
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Main photo: Jessica Chambers [FBI]; Quinton Tellis [Ouachita Parish Sheriff]