Jessica Chambers case: Teen burned alive named killer before dying, firefighters testify

Jessica Chambers mother Lisa took the stand on day one of the trial

The defense focussed in on statments made by first responders that Chambers stated on the scene that someone named "Eric" had set her on fire.

Quinton Tellis (29) has been accused of killing Jessica Chambers on December 6 2014. She died the next day.

Tellis initially told police he had not been with Chambers at all on the day of her death, but reportedly changed his story multiple times during questioning.

District Attorney John Champion said Chambers suffered an agonizing death. "I would venture to guess if all of us sitting here were to know we're going to die, that the very last way we would want to die would be by fire".

Among Tuesday's five witnesses was Cole Haley, a former volunteer fire chief and one of the first responders who found Jessica burning.

Chambers' words to first responders emerged as a key point of contention during opening statements Tuesday.

In court Wednesday, however, Cole said it was loud on the scene, where they were positioned behind a firetruck, and that when he first asked her name upon arriving at the scene, he thought she said her name was Katrina, Tina or Courtney.

Nearly all of the witnesses said Jessica Chambers told them someone named "Eric" or "Derek" had set her on fire.

He added that Mr Tellis repeatedly lied to investigators about spending time with her in the hours before she was found. He said he asked Chambers' her name, then asked, "What happened?" and she responded saying, "Eric set me on fire".

A grand jury indicted Tellis for lighting Chambers' vehicle on fire, leading to her death.

Tellis then drove Chambers' auto with her inside it to the back road, ran to his sister's house nearby, jumped in his sisters' vehicle, stopped to pick up gasoline from a shed at his house and torched Chambers' vehicle and her, Champion said.

Champion acknowledged Chambers gave a name to first responders that does not match Tellis', but said by the end of the trial, the evidence "will change your mind, I can promise you".

But defense attorney Darla Palmer maintained in opening statements Tuesday that Tellis has been falsely accused, and that Chambers' dying statement to firefighters shows the killer was someone else.

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"She knew Quinton", Palmer said Tuesday. Quinton Tellis is charged in her death. "But she did not say that that day".

About 35 witnesses, including the firefighters and paramedics who spoke to Chambers on the scene of the fire, are expected to testify.

Cole said he heard her say: 'Eric set me on fire'.

Her body was covered with soot and blisters and her hair was singed. He said she never blamed the crime on anyone named Eric.

The man who found Jessica Chambers' vehicle keys not far from the scene also testified.

In court, however, he also described difficulty hearing her speak.

Firefighter Shane Mills said he was horrified to see her condition.

One of the first firefighters on the scene, Daniel Cole (left), said Chambers had soot around her nose and mouth.

"One of the worst things you could imagine", Mills said. 'I can't picture it for y'all. As in the Chambers case, it is alleged he knew the victim before her death. The trial has been emotional, with witnesses breaking down on the stand and spectators crying when jurors were shown graphic photos of Chambers' burned stomach and face.

Day 2 consisted of testimony nearly entirely comprised of first responders who were called to the scene of the fire.

If convicted, Tellis faces life in prison without parole.

Tellis was serving time in Ouachita Parish Jail in Monroe, Louisiana, at the time of his indictment in Chamber's murder last year, where he was being held on charges connected to the brutal stabbing death of 34-year-old Meing-Chen "Mandy" Hsiao.

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