Man indicted in Jessica Chambers murder previously married prison pen pal
PANOLA CO, MS (WMC) - A grand jury handed down a indictment in Jessica Chambers' murder, 14 months after her death.
Courtland, Mississippi native Quinton Tellis, 27, was indicted on a capital murder charge Monday.
"We just hope there's enough evidence to convict him or anyone else who is out there who has caused these murders," Panola County resident Katie Azar said.
Jessica Chambers was found burning alive near her car on a Mississippi highway on December 6, 2014 in Courtland, Mississippi. Investigators offered a reward of more than $50,000 for information leading to an arrest; that reward will not be claimed.
"We had a lot of different leads that looked really good in this case, but everything kept fizzling out on us," District Attorney John Champion said during a news conference Wednesday. "It took time to build this case...The investigating team we have we, for lack of a better word, methodically plugged along making sure that if we got this information we had something to back it up with. It absolutely took a long time to do that."
While Champion said Tellis is a gang member, he does not believe that had anything to do with Chambers' murder.
"We never believed that this was gang related. We never believed that this was drug related. From the get go, just from the facts we looked at did not lead us to those conclusions," Champion added. "The technological data that we had available to us is no doubt what helped us solve this case."
Now, more strange details are emerging about the man indicted for Chambers' murder.
Jessica's family said they are happy that someone has finally been charged, but they know there's a lot left to do before justice can be served.
"This is just the beginning for justice for Jessica," Jessica's mother Lisa Chambers said. "I know it's just the beginning of the tunnel, but I sure hope I see the light."
"They [investigators] just never would give up," Jessica's father Ben Chambers said. "She'll be at peace now. I always told her some day it would come and it did. Just like Mr. Champion said, this is the first step. There's a lot of steps to it, you know. It takes time."
However, Tellis' case is far from over. Champion doesn't expect that Tellis will be brought back to Mississippi to face the capital murder charge anytime soon.
"The next stage will be that we will prepare, what we call Governor's Warrant," Champion said. "We have to go through governor's offices to have a prisoner returned from another state...that usually takes anywhere from four to six weeks. I don't anticipate getting him back here until Louisiana is completely finished with his charges."
Tellis was born seven years before Chambers. However, they grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same high school.
Tellis was released from prison on felony burglary convictions in October 2014--two months before Chambers' death. Sometime after her death Tellis ended up in Monroe, Louisiana.
An exchange student at University of Louisiana-Monroe, Meing-Chen Hsiao, was found stabbed to death in August 2015--eight months after Chamber's death. The day investigators found Hsiao's body, Tellis was getting married.
Several days later Louisiana police officers arrested Tellis for using Hsiao's credit cards three different times.
Tellis is currently in jail in Louisiana on drug and credit card fraud charges. He is not charged in her murder, but police in Louisiana said he is the top suspect. They said they are working to build up enough evidence to formally charge him with murdering Meing-Chen Hsiao.
"The speculation is he's not going to ever get out of jail again," Monroe Police Department Chief Quentin Holmes said. "There's enough evidence between both states that he'll never walk the streets again."
During the investigation into Hsiao's death, Tellis was identified as possibly being connected to a murder in Mississippi. Tellis has his next Louisiana court date set for May 9.
"I know from watching my guys work, they've done a very good job. They have a very good case at the end of the day. He will be charged and convicted of murder in this state as well," Holmes said.
Champion said investigators questioned Tellis during the first month of the investigation.
"Quinton Tellis was a suspect fairly early in this case. We continued to work on this case for quite a long time," Champion explained. "We developed evidence in the fall that really led us to focus pretty seriously on him."
Champion said Tellis and Chambers met through a mutual friend, but he refused to go into detail about their relationship or a possible motive for murder. He cited state laws when asked why would not release a possible motive in Chambers' death.
Tellis and Chambers are said to have known each other for a few weeks before Chambers' death. Her parents said they had never met the man and didn't know anything about him.
Investigators said Tellis was also planning a wedding during the time Hsiao was stabbed to death and during the 10 days it took to discover her body. Her body was found on the same day Tellis got married to his prison pen pal.
Investigators said the woman Tellis married wrote to him while he was in prison in Mississippi on burglary charges and that is how they met.
Tellis will be tried in Louisiana first before coming to Panola County to face capital murder charges in the death of Jessica Chambers.
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