Deleted texts show Jessica Chambers denied Tellis sex
PANOLA CO, MS (WMC) - The cell phones belonging to Jessica Chambers and Quinton Tellis were the talk of day five at the courthouse in Batesville, Mississippi.
Despite giving a dying declaration that someone named Eric or Derrick set her on fire, Chambers did not use her phone to contact anyone named Eric or Derrick in the 30 days prior to her death, according to a phone analyst.
Using Chambers and Tellis' phone data, investigators were able to place the two of them in the same area well after when Tellis told investigators he last saw Chambers.
Investigators were also able to uncover text messages between Chambers and Tellis. Those messages revealed Chambers four times denied Tellis' requests for sex the day she was burned alive.
Tellis is accused of burning Jessica Chambers alive on December 6, 2014.
Trial resumed at 9 a.m. with Tellis' defense team cross-examining MBI Agent Tim Douglas, who interrogated Tellis in Louisiana.
Douglas testified that he spoke with firefighters soon after Chambers' death. He agreed with previous testimony that first responders said Chambers named "Eric" or "Derrick" as the person who set her on fire.
Douglas said he and other investigators take dying declarations, like the one Chambers gave, very seriously. He said dying declarations are always taken very seriously by investigators during homicide cases.
However, due to Chambers' physical state--and because the first responders said Chambers' speech was difficult to understand--investigators expanded the search to suspects not named Eric or Derrick.
"Yes, she made a declaration. Yes, in my non-medical opinion, she was in a state of shock...so while that dying declaration was important, we chose not to limit ourselves because of the state she was in when she made it," Douglas said.
Tellis' defense team then asked Douglas if in his decades of homicide investigations had he ever known someone to give a dying declaration that falsely implicated someone?
"I don't believe I have," Douglas said.
Douglas then answered questions about all the Erics and Derricks he investigated. The defense team questioned Douglas on how he and other investigators ruled out those men, and the steps they went through during the investigation.
Douglas said in most cases the Erics and Derricks he investigated did not have any connection with Chambers.
The defense team then brought out a list of names and numbers found in Jessica Chambers' phone. The list contained several Erics and Derricks. Douglas explained that each one of them was questioned and eliminated as a suspect. The defense team asked if any of them were given DNA tests; Douglas said they were not because they were cleared as suspects.
Douglas was questioned about Tellis' memory of the timeline of events that happened December 6, 2014--the night Chambers was burned alive.
Douglas said he felt that Tellis was struggling to remember some things during his interview on November 2-3, 2015. However, Douglas said he also knew there were times when Tellis was misleading investigators.
"Yes sir. Sometimes Quinton forgot. Also yes sir, sometimes Quinton was trying--when his alibi was knocked down--he was trying to make up another one," Douglas said.
In the interrogation, Tellis told Douglas that he didn't have the heart to kill anyone. Douglas said he didn't believe Tellis when he said that.
"I didn't then and I don't know, because I know the truth," Douglas said.
Jessica Chambers did not use her phone to talk to anyone named Eric or Derrick in the 30 days prior to her death, according to intelligence analyst Paul Rowlett.
After months of following procedure, Rowlett and other investigators were able to get access to Chambers' locked phone. With that access they received a phone dump containing 796 pages of information.
The phone dump includes all the calls and texts Chambers made from November 7 to December 6, 2014.
"There where no Erics or Derricks in that report at all," Rowlett said.
Rowlett said he did find a few Erics and Derricks in Chambers' Facebook contacts. However, Rowlett said investigators followed up with every one of those people and eliminated them as suspects through interviews, phone calls, alibis, etc.
Rowlett said the phone dump showed Tellis was one of the last people to communicate with Chambers.
Rowlett said phone data showed that Tellis made a call from Batesville at 6:17 p.m. That placed him in the same area as Chambers--something Rowlett said surprised investigators since he told investigators he only saw Chambers on Saturday morning.
Rowlett also said he was able to get text messages from Chambers' phone that Tellis had deleted from his phone.
Rowlett said after examining the recovered texting history, they discovered a pattern of communication between Tellis and Chambers. They constantly texted and called each other leading up to the day she was murdered.
Using a spreadsheet, Rowlett went through all of the messages on Chambers and Tellis' phones that leading up to that day, recovered by Verizon.
For four days in a row leading up to Dec. 6, 2014, Tellis asked Chambers to come over to have sex. She denied him all four times. She said his mother and sister were at his house, and they'd freak out if she was over there.
Rowlett also showed surveillance video from the store across the street from Tellis' house. It shows Tellis walking across the street, going into the store and coming out. It shows Jessica Chambers in and out of the store at different times. This was used to get the timeline.
At about 7:42 p.m., Tellis tried calling and texing Chambers. In a text message he says he has a friend coming up from out of town and wishes her goodnight. That "friend" was later identified as Chakita, who he was also involved with and lived four hours away. Tellis called Chakita around 8 p.m. and tries to persuade her to drive up.
There is also video showing Tellis changing his clothes three times during the day Chambers was set on fire.
At 8:26 p.m., about an hour after Chambers was set on fire, Tellis erased all of the text messages from her.
After he found out she'd been burned, Rowlett said, Tellis made no calls to check up on her but instead deleted their text message conversations.
After taking a break, the defense then cross-examined Rowlett.
The defense team questioned Rowlett about the accuracy of cell towers pinpointing locations. Rowlett admitted that sometimes cell towers can be extremely precise but in other cases, they can also be imprecise. Rowlett said whenever you make a call, the cell phone companies will put you on the closest tower so your call will have the best service.
The trial wrapped up around 7 p.m. and will resume Sunday at 1 p.m.
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