Man Charged in Burning Death of Mississippi Teen

Adrian Sainz, AP, February 24, 2016

It took investigators more than a year of painstaking work, but they say they have finally cracked the case of a former high school cheerleader who was found near death in her rural Mississippi hometown after being doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire.

District Attorney John Champion announced Wednesday that Quinton Verdell Tellis, 27, has been charged with capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers. She was found along a road, badly burned, on Dec. 6, 2014. Her vehicle was on fire. She suffered burns over 98 percent of her body and died hours later at a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jessica Chambers and Quinton Verdell Tellis

Jessica Chambers and Quinton Verdell Tellis

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Champion says Tellis and Chambers knew each other and were friends, but he would not describe a motive. Champion did say he believed it was a “personal crime” and not related to drug or gang activity. The prosecutor also said he would not reveal to reporters what Chambers had told firefighters who had arrived at the scene.

The horrific circumstances surrounding the young woman’s death garnered national attention and cast light on concerns about violent crime in rural towns like Courtland, where Chambers and Tellis lived. {snip}

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Tellis has three prior convictions in Panola County–two for burglary and one for fleeing from police. He was released from prison in October 2014, two months before Chambers’ killing.

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Monroe police in November identified Tellis as a suspect in the death of Meing-Chen Hsiao, a recent University of Louisiana at Monroe graduate from Taiwan who was found dead in her apartment in August, killed by stabbing. Tellis has not been charged in the 34-year-old Hsiao’s death but has been charged with using her debit cards after she died.

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