Interrogation video raises doubt about Tellis' alibi
PANOLA CO, MS (WMC) - The fourth day in the murder trial of Quinton Tellis was dominated by video of Tellis being interrogated.
For the majority of the day, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agent Tim Douglas was on the witness stand. He spoke about interrogating Tellis in Louisiana after finding evidence that didn't match up with Tellis' original depiction of the day Jessica Chambers was killed.
Tellis is accused of killing Jessica Chambers, a 19-year-old who was found burned alive in Panola County on December 6, 2014.
Matthew Simon, an explosives expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), described how he and his team deciphers fire debris to find out what happened before the fire burned Jessica Chambers.
Simon said he and his team were looking for the substance used to ignite the fire when they recovered a piece of clothing that contained gasoline.
He also examined hair and several other pieces of possibly burned clothing, but those did not test for any traces of a fire accelerate. Simon said the items were so charred, he could not confirm that they were indeed clothing--just that they appeared to be.
Simon also examined the blanket that firefighters wrapped Chambers in. He was unable to find any trace of gasoline there.
A lighter found at the scene was taken to fingerprint analysts.
MBI agent Tim Douglas said shortly after Chambers' death, MBI began calling other agencies to assist.
Douglas said MBI put in a request to get her phone records from the 24 hours prior to her death.
Douglas recognized Tellis' name from the phone records and he was developed as a person for MBI to talk to. He said Tellis' name also came up when investigators spoke to Chambers' best friend, Kesha Myers, as a man the two friends had been with.
MBI initially looked for people named Eric or Derrick, but Douglas determined they should not limit the investigation to those two names due to Chambers' condition. He said one officer noted it sounded like she said "Yalmers" when saying her name, so they could not be certain what she said.
"You cannot begin to even fathom the amount of tips we received into the sheriff's office," Douglas said.
He explained that their investigation expanded with each tip and each Eric or Derrick they looked into.
Douglas said Tellis was initially significant to the trial, but investigators were more concerned with other leads and people who could be suspects. After every lead was exhausted, investigators returned to the phone records.
Investigators said Tellis originally told investigators that he last saw Chambers at a store, but they later found evidence to suggest that was a lie. That's when MBI decided to go to Louisiana to talk to Tellis in person. Tellis was in jail in Louisiana for a different crime.
The jury was then shown video of the investigators' interview with Tellis, which happened November 2-3, 2015, in which he discusses selling Chambers marijuana (sometimes he'd give it to her for free).
Investigators had Tellis walk through all of his actions on the day Chambers was killed.
The prosecution then asked Douglas about the interview with Tellis. He was told Tellis and Chambers rode around together the morning of the day she was killed and that he gave her $10 for food then went their separate ways.
Douglas said investigators began to find holes in Tellis' story. He described them as "uh-oh moments," because investigators would tell Tellis about his inconsistencies and that's when he would change his story.
Douglas said during the interview Tellis was able to remember details from December 6, such as the things he ate that day, but he was not able to remember that he was with Chambers in the afternoon and evening--as phone records suggest.
Interrogators asked Tellis if he knew who might want to kill Chambers. He replied that he wasn't sure, but he'd heard that maybe her father could've done it because he didn't like that she was hanging out with a black man.
After the jury listened to hours of Tellis being interrogated, Douglas testified that Tellis repeatedly told investigators he was in Big Mike's truck the afternoon Chambers was killed. When investigators told him that Big Mike was in Nashville that day to watch an NFL game, Tellis admitted he may not have been in Big Mike's truck.
Douglas said his team meticulously compared surveillance video and time stamps to map out where Tellis went the day Chambers died. They said he was the last person to see her the day she died, he changed clothes at a suspicious time of day, and his alibi changed and did not match up to evidence.
Prosecutor John Champion finished his line of questioning at 5:50 p.m. The judge then dismissed court for the day, because he said he imagined cross-examination would be lengthy.
The trial will resume Saturday at 9 a.m., and WMC Action News 5 will continue to bring you live coverage on WMCActionNews5.com and on our WMC Action News 5 mobile app.
Day 1: Opening statements conclude, Jessica Chambers' mom takes the stand
Day 2: First responders testify to hearing Jessica Chambers say 'Eric' burned her
Day 3: Chambers' burn injuries, suspect's phone in spotlight
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