(When the Jessica Chambers trial is in session we will be airing the testimony live in the player above. When the trial is on break, we will be providing legal analysis)
Melissa Jones, our freelance producer, is providing these live updates from the courthouse in Mississippi. Please refresh your browser to make sure you are seeing the latest details.
10:15 am ET:
When witness ATF Agent Matthew Simon arrived yesterday to testify, he noticed the paint bucket he sent back with the items he tested (clothing) for accelerate was not in the same container he sent it back in. The State had lost the container breaking the chain of custody for that evidence. The State asked this morning that testimony of the ATF still remain and he be treated as an expert. The defense objected, and the judge overruled. And the ATF Agent is now on the stand.
Homicide agent Tommy Douglas with the MBI (Mississippi Bureau of Investigation) took the stand next. He said when he first learned of the tragedy, he sent out another agent to investigate because at that time it wasn’t listed as a homicide.
It wasn’t until the next morning after Jessica’s death that he, as well as the US Marshals Service, got in on the case.
He said his first order of business was to get a copy of Jessica’s phone records. They wanted to know who she was with, where she had been in order to start putting her day (of her death) together.
He went on to explain how phone records are gathered and analyzed so that the information can be understood by them and a lay person.
He further testified about his interview with Keisha Meyers and defendant Quentin Tellis. Investigator learned these names from phone records.
The state asked Douglas if he interviewed the fire personnel and first responders who were on the scene that night. They also asked what name was circulating among responders–the perpetrator’s name.
Douglas replied that they did hear everyone say that Chambers named “Eric” or “Derrick” as the perpetrator. “But we did not limit ourselves to that.” Because of the shape Jessica was in, and that he had been told that she also had pronounced her last name as “younders”. Douglas then testified that because this case was bigger than them, he called every agency he could think of for help.
He said he asked for everything anyone had on a Eric or Derrick in Panola County. Black, white all of them. Facebook info, anything anyone had on these names. But at the same time, they did not limit themselves to just those names or anything else.
Douglas testified that Tellis voluntarily came to the Sheriff’s department on Dec. 10 to speak with him. He said that Tellis told him Keisha and Jessica picked him up at M&M Grocery that morning. Tellis also told him the girls smoked a blunt but he did not. Tellis told Douglas that while they were riding around that morning, they even twice drove by the place Jessica was burned.
Tellis also told Douglas that he got out of the car before noon that day. But Jessica texted him for money and right after lunch on the day of the fire he walked across the street to give her $10. Tellis then told Douglas that he didn’t see Jessica anymore that day.
The prosecutor went on to ask agent Douglas about multiple leads that were coming in during the first few days after the fire.
Douglas testified they conducted well over 100 interviews and reviewed thousands of phone records. They followed leads from Iowa and Chattanooga, TN. People were continuously calling in tips.
Everybody in the community suspected everyone else in the community, Douglas said. They got emails from Canada and tips from psychics. They ran down every lead with the exception of the psychics.
He even had one guy whom he thought was a hot lead. He interviewed the guy’s family, etc, but later said that at the time of the fire, this “Eric or Derrick” was at home rubbing his mother’s feet.
Everybody was doing something everyday, but it all led to dead ends, Douglas stated. At the time, Douglas said, he and a few other agents’ lives revolved around Jessica Chambers. They met on a daily basis.
They even discussed starting all over for from Day 1 because they just weren’t getting anywhere.
He said Paul Rowlett of the U.S. Attorney’s office had a bad habit of staying up all night studying this case. Rowlett called Douglas at 2 in the morning saying, “I think I’ve got something here. Y’all need to come to my office first thing in the morning.”
Both legal teams then approached the bench for a side bar and afterwards the judge called for unexpected recess.
Testimony resumed. Douglas said that after the meeting with Paul Rowlett the next day, they drove to Monroe, Louisiana (where Tellis was now living) to re-interview Tellis’ again. They met with Quentin on November 2, 2015.
The state then played a recording, showing significant events of that interview. Though we could see the video as it played in court, the audio was too distorted to extract information with any clarity. Mr. Tellis appeared to be trying very hard to remember the details and answers to their questions.
12:40 p.m. ET:
After the first segment of this video, states attorney John Champion questioned Douglas about what we had just seen.
12:43 p.m. ET:
The judge breaks for lunch.
1:49 p.m. ET:
Court resumed after lunch with the playing of the Tellis’ interview video.
Tellis obviously had trouble answering the question of where he had dinner that night. Investigators asked Tellis if he went to Batesville prior to the trip to buy the green card. Tellis asked the investigators for help because he couldn’t remember. The investigators told him they couldn’t tell him what they knew because they wanted him to tell them the truth.
Then they asked what his other phone numbers were. Tellis said he only had one phone. Being pressed by the interviewers, Tellis said maybe he had used his sister’s government phone (free cell phone provided for low-income families).
They wanted to know if he ever texted Jessica on his sister’s phone. Tells said he may have, that he would indeed use the government phones when his minutes ran out. They asked Tellis if anybody else used his phone, and did he ever give it to someone to let them hold it. Not that he knew off, Tellis said. They asked if he was sure about that, and pointed out that he took a long time to answer that question. Tellis answered, not until he gave his phone to investigators.
Then they asked him if he was sure he didn’t go to Batesville to get something to eat before the Green Dot card trip. They kept asking if he was sure.
Tellis said not that he could recall.
“I probably just got on my dirt bike and just went riding,” he said about where he went that afternoon. “I don’t remember.”
They asked if he got back into the car with Chambers after dark. He said no. They asked if he saw her anymore that night after dark. He said.
Then the investigators brought up the cell phone pings. The investigators say that they are sure Quentin has watched enough CSI, bait car or whatever to know that they can get this information from a cell phone even if the phone isn’t being used at the time.
In an earlier interview Tellis’ had told these investigators that after riding around with Jessica and Keisha Myers earlier in the day, Jessica called him that afternoon to ask for money so she could go get something to eat. Tellis had told investigators in that earlier interview that he met Jessica across the street later that afternoon and he gave her $10 but he just threw it in her car and went back home because his girlfriend from Louisiana (whom he later married and was the recipient of the Green Dot card) was at his house and he didn’t want to get caught.
The investigators pointed out in this interview that they knew that was a lie because they had talked to Jamie and she told them she wasn’t there.
The court went on break for a brief recess.
Update 4:02 PM ET
In this segment of the interrogation video, the investigator assured Tellis they were not trying to pin anything on him. Tellis said his uncle also had a white pick up truck and that was the one the investigator was seeing. The investigator continued to drill Tellis about how long he was at his sister’s house borrowing her truck to go make the Green Dot trip to Batesville. Tellis thought for a bit and answered that it took about 15 minutes. They point out they knew he’d call Chakita at 7:42 and asked where he was when he made that call.
Tellis said he was walking to his sister’s house at the time he made that call. The investigators noted that his sister truck is a white Tahoe.
He said he originally went to Piggly Wiggly to get the Green Dot card but couldn’t (reason unclear) and wound up at Fred’s dollar store to make that purchase.
They asked Tellis how much the green dot card cost, to which Tellis answered $30-$35. They asked two more times where Tellis was when he made that 7:42 pm call to Chakita. Again, Tellis told them he was on his way to his sister’s house to borrow her truck. The state pointed out through questions that Tellis stated in the video that he was walking on his way to the home.
Update 4:47 pm ET:
The police interview resumed. The investigator asked Tellis what do they have to do to make this right. “Either you didn’t do it or you were the last person to see her alive. If you killed her than you were the last person to see her alive. If you didn’t kill her then you were the next to the last person to see her alive.”
Tellis said he didn’t know who did it. Then the investigators asked him much time he spent with Jessica during the two weeks in which he knew her. Tellis just said they rode around a few times.
They then read Tellis his rights. The investigators asked Tellis if Jessica had any trouble with anybody. Tellis said the only one he could think of was Derrick Holmes What would she say about him? Just as Tellis tried to answer, the audio on the video became extremely distorted and the listener wasn’t able to make out his answer.
They went back to asking Tellis about how long he had been home after the Taco Bell trip before walking to his sister’s house. Tellis answered that he had been home for a minute. They asked if Tellis remembered seeing anybody at the Piggly Wiggly for the sake of a time line. Tellis said he didn’t know how to get in contact with her but when he was in line at Fred’s a lady introduced herself to him as his cousin on his Daddy’s side.
After that last part of the video was shown to the jurors, the state asked Douglas if Tellis every denied he was the next to the last person to see Jessica or the last person to see Jessica. Douglas stated that Tellis did not.
4:58 p.m. EST: Video of the interview continued.
The investigators continued to question Tellis about the time line for the night of Dec 6, and if it was right around 6:30 when he got back to Courtland. Then they brought in the cell phones records in an attempt they tell Tellis to jog his memory. They offer Tellis donuts.
Investigators asked if there’s another number that he called that night at about the same time he talked to Jessica and Chakita [whom he is now married to]? “Do you remember who that was?”
Then the investigators gave Tellis the number. “You called that number quite a bit and texted,” they tell Tellis.
Tellis thought, answered Teena, a nickname for Wykesha. He said he called her for sex. Investigators asked how long he had known her.
“My cousin James hooked me up with her and I started talking to her when I got out of prison,” he said.
“How many times do you remember talking to her?” investigators asked.
“Do you remember talking to her or what y’all talked about?”
They asked several other questions such as if Jessica had ever been over to raggedy Ann’s. (Tellis’ sister). Tellis answered Jessica didn’t go with him, but she may have been up there buying weed.
They continued to interview Tellis about several other of the Courtland residents.
The investigators finally got back to the timeline, and kept asking him who was at his house when Big Mike dropped him off after the Taco Bell trip.
They asked Tellis what cars were at his house. Tellis said his mother and stepfather, but he didn’t remember who else. Investigators told Tellis they saw his mother leave in a white suburban and go over to the store. They asked Tellis if he remembers that.
Investigators brought up the text he made to Jessica that evening and again where he was when he made that text.
Tellis thought for a few minutes and said he believed he was at home getting ready to go over to raggedy Ann’s to borrow her truck. They asked another time. This Time Tellis said he knew he was at the house.
It was typical interrogation techniques all afternoon: the investigation team asked Tellis over and over where he was when he texted Jessica at 7:42, who was at his house when he got home. It was all in an effort to trip Tellis up and catch him in lies.
They tell Tellis that his DNA was on the keys and that was “the gods honest truth”
The video was stopped with 4 minutes left.
5:45 p.m. EST
The final few minutes of the interview focused on whether or not Tellis had ever driven Jessica’s car. Tellis said he thought head driven it once. The interview ended at this point.
In court, Douglas was then asked if he asked Tellis why he didn’t borrow one of the multiple vehicles that was at his residence that night. Douglas said that he had. He said Tellis said his mother would not allow him to use her vehicle because Tellis had no drivers license and she didn’t want it towed. The state asked if the house of Tellis’ sister was closer to the crime scene and he said it was through that access road.
Update 4:52 pm ET
Agent Douglas continues to grill Tellis with the same questions over and over in the interrogation tape. How did he get to his sister’s home that night, did he come straight home from buying the green dot card, where did he go after he got home etc etc
It was at this point Douglas drops the bombshell on Tellis that he knows that Big Mike was at the Tennessee Titans games in Nashville which was a 4 hour drive away.
Douglas tells Tellis that he was seen with Jessica two different times that night in her car and he believed that he was with Jessica at the top of that hill that night.
Then Douglas breaks out the phone records again showing that Tellis’ and Jessica’s phones were together that night.
Douglas get Tellis to admit they did go to Taco Bell together. Tellis said she did come to his house. Douglas says on the video when Jessica was getting gas at 5:25 that night they see Jessica go to his house on the video.
Douglas says he has a witness that said Jessica had a black guy in the car with her that night. At this point, Tellis tells the investigators they went to Taco Bell together and then straight back to his house.
They ask Tellis if they waited to get home to eat. Tellis said he didn’t get anything to eat
Douglas says they have a witness that sees them together at the sandbox after the Taco Bell trip. Douglas asks Tellis what happened when he got back to his house that night.
Tellis tells investigators that Jessica told him she had to go do something for her momma and he went on into his house. Tellis estimates this time to be about 6:25.
Douglas refers back to the phone records and says that there are for 4 or so phone calls and text messages that he didn’t answer during that time. Tellis explains that this was because he doesn’t get good phone reception while he is inside his house.
They ask again about the route they took to and from Taco Bell. They ask how long he and Jessica were at his house when they got back from the Taco Bell trip. Tellis thinks it may have been about 30 minutes.
Douglas brings up that they see his mother on video going to the store about 7:38. And how long Jessica had been gone when his mother went to the store. Tellis said he went in to take a bath. They asked him if he changed clothes. His answer is unclear. Tellis said when his momma went to the store Jessica was gone and he was already in the house.
The investigators say that a person named Sammy was at his house for a few minutes but didn’t come in. The investigators say they see Sammy on video leaving his house and going to the store at 7:10.
Tellis states that he and Jessica just talked while she smoked a blunt. He said he asked her for sex but she turned him down saying she was on her period.
In earlier testimony, the medical examiner testified that Jessica was not menstruating at the time of her death.
The investigators show Tellis a photo of him walking over to the store at 8:55 and what he was wearing. With that the video abruptly ended
6:24 pm ET:
The state continues to question Douglas about what Tellis had told him in the previous interviews that were held in November and whether they were the same answers Tellis gave him in the second interview that was held the following January.
Douglas said Tellis finally admitted two years after the crime that Jessica picked him up on the afternoon of Dec 6 2014 at approximate 530.
In this last few minutes of the interview video, the investigators point out the times they see the vehicle going in and out of his driveway and they see the change of clothes and how he is wearing a coat.
6:54 pm ET
The cell phone records pick up pings from his phone at 8:04 in Courtland. Then they pick up his phone in Batesville ( 6 miles away) at 823.The investigators point out that in the surveillance video he is not wearing that coat and it was cold that night
They know he is at the green dot at 826.
They pick up a ping again at 850 from Tellis’ home.
They see him on video at 857 walking to the store
They point out that they see him on video coming from the crime scene direction. He pulls into his driveway to his shed at 750 and sits there for about a minute and a half and leaves there and goes back the same way (towards the murder scene).
They see a vehicle that looks just like his sister’s white Tahoe go by from the direction of the crime scene at 8:04. 12 minutes passed between the time a vehicle pulls up to the shed, leaves, heads towards the crime scene and the white Taho belonging to his sister and is seen coming from the direction of the crime scene and going passed the store.
Douglas also pointed out that there is a change of clothing on Tellis there times that day. The changes happen when he is seen in the morning, then later that afternoon and then the last time he was seen on the M & M video at 857 that night.
Court recessed until 9 am Saturday.