She Was Alive When She Was Set on Fire. Will this Mississippi Teen’s Family Find Justice?

Therese Apel, Sun Herald, October 9, 2017

For almost three years, those who love Jessica Lane Chambers have rallied behind their cause, “Justice for Jessica,” and have awaited a day that is finally here.

On Dec. 6, 2014, Chambers was found on Herron Road in the Panola County town of Courtland a little after 8 p.m., walking away from her burning vehicle with burns over 98 percent of her body. In the small community of barely 500, almost all the first responders on the scene knew her and her family.

The 19-year-old was flown to a Memphis hospital, where she died just hours later. Coroner Gracie Gulledge said the cause of the young woman’s death was thermal injury.

On Feb. 23, 2016, authorities had their suspect. They announced that Quinton Verdell Tellis had been indicted that month on capital murder charges by a special grand jury in Panola County.

And on Monday, a jury will be chosen in Pike County, which has a similar demographic to Panola, because of pre-trial publicity.

Quinton Tellis and Jessica Chambers

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At the time of Tellis’ indictment, he was in the Ouachita Parish Jail in Monroe, Louisiana, where he was being held on charges connected to the slaying of another woman — Meing-Chen Hsiao, 34, of Taiwan, who was stabbed to death.

Tellis’ indictment in Chambers’ death was an unforeseen development for many who followed the case, as his name had not come up publicly during the investigation. He pleaded not guilty in a courtroom in Hernando in July 2016, just a short time after he was charged with Hsiao’s death in Louisiana.

Chambers was with Tellis the night she died, by his own admission, officials said. The two allegedly had a relationship in the weeks leading up to her death.

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It’s not clear what the defense’s case will hinge upon, though there were several other possible suspects raised during the investigation.

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In addition, Chambers had a large network of friends and many of them were allegedly involved in drug activity and other crimes, making it a possibility that the defense could call her lifestyle and her acquaintances into question to establish reasonable doubt.

Court officials said as recently as last week that they were told the defense does not plan to take a plea deal.

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