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On Sunday, both sides made their closing arguments in the capital murder trial of Quinton Verdell Tellis. Prosecutors say he caused Jessica Chambers’s brutal death by lighting her car on fire on the December 6, 2014.
District 17 District Attorney John Champion said Tellis hounded the victim for sex four days in row. She politely refused. Cell phone evidence showed she was near the defendant’s home shortly before her death, they said. Testimony showed that headlights pulled out of Tellis’ driveway, and Chambers was at the scene of the fire four minutes later.
First responder reports showed that Chambers blamed an “Eric” for the crime, but Champion explained it away. Chambers couldn’t pronounce her Ts, he said. She would say “thirsty,” as hirsty,” and pronounce her last name as “Yalmbers.”
As shown by a doctor’s testimony, Chambers couldn’t communicate well, he said.
Defense lawyer Darla Palmer emphasized the importance of the first responder’s accounts. Chambers consistently blamed a “Eric.”
“She stated multiple times, ‘Eric set me on fire,’” Palmer said. She argued that investigators overlooked important details in the case. There’s also the matter of phone records. Unless a call was being made, it wasn’t possible to pinpoint someone’s location. That means investigators couldn’t be sure about where Jessica and Quinton were.
“Eric is not on trial today,” Palmer said. “But ladies and gentlemen, he should be.”
Co-counsel Alton Peterson took over the rest of their closing argument. Where Palmer spent most of her time on the Eric element, he did what what he could to further undermine other elements of the investigation. He pointed out that not enough evidence was collected from the woods where Chambers emerged from, burnt.
He said investigators failed to look at every possible suspect. He pointed out testimony about a suspicious man at the scene. Law enforcement didn’t take a look at this individual, however.
“I believe that was a stone left unturned,” Peterson said.
He also wondered aloud how Jerry King, who testified to finding Chambers’ keys, immediately recognized these as belonging to the victim. Like Palmer, he said Chambers consistently blamed Eric in first responder reports.
Tellis got interviewed by police 5 times, Peterson said. Each time, he participated voluntarily without getting a lawyer.
“If the police follow you for a 100 miles, they are going to find a reason to pull you over,” he said, quoting Warren Buffett.
After a short break, Champion had a chance a rebuttal.
“The defense tried to focus on Eric,” he said. “And there hammered at you, hammered at you, hammered at you.”
He said the investigation was thorough, involving multiple agencies like the U.S. Marshals. Once again, he pointed out that Chambers had trouble with correct pronunciation.
“What if she was trying to say, ’Tellis’?” he said.
The defendant changed his story, committing important facts during interrogation, Champion said.
“When confronted with the physical evidence of the cell phone data, he said ‘yeah,’ I was with her,” Champion said.
Tellis “purposefully” distanced himself from Jessica until confronted by investigators, the DA argued. Champion cited text messages and testimony showing that Chambers and the defendant never had a relationship.
Jessica never agreed to have sex with Tellis, the DA said. She rejected Quinton every time.
Champion argued that the defendant wanted to mislead investigators about being with her that evening. Quinton erased any Jessica-related from his phone, he said.
“Jessica Chambers was full of tomorrows,” Champion said, and argued that Tellis was the man who took this away from her.
Stay with LawNewz.com and the LawNewz Network for continuing coverage of the trial.
Freelance producer Melissa Jones contributed to this report.