U.S.

Mississippi Man Burned Teenage Cheerleader Alive and Then Deleted Her Texts, Court Hears

A Mississippi man set fire to a 19-year-old woman in her car and in the following days deleted text messages he'd exchanged with her from his phone, a court has heard.

Quinton Tellis, 29, reportedly admitted to deleting all traces of communication between him and cheerleader Jessica Chambers following her gruesome murder in Courtland, Mississippi, in December 2014, an FBI agent testified.

Prosecutors alleged that after having sex with Chambers in her car, Tellis doused the victim in gasoline and set her and the vehicle alight.

FBI Special Agent Dustin Blount told the jury at Panola County Circuit Court that Tellis admitted to having a sexual relationship with Chambers and that he had been in the car hours before she was murdered but did not have sex with her that day, reported the New York Post. 

Blount told the court Tellis said he did not see Chambers again after that day, and his last contact was when she asked him for money. Tellis allegedly told the agent that he deleted text messages from his phone after hearing about her death.

Firefighters found Chambers with burns on more than 90 percent of her body after managing to escape from the vehicle the evening of December 6, 2014. Emergency services reportedly described her appearance at the time as like a “zombie.”

Tellis’s original trial in 2017 ended in a hung jury. For his retrial, his defense team is expected to use the same arguments they did in the original proceedings.

As many as 10 firefighters and first responders testified that a badly injured Chambers told them a man named “Eric” or possibly “Derek” was responsible for the attack before she was taken to a Memphis hospital where she later died.

“If we had one person saying she said ‘Quinton set me on fire,’ we wouldn’t be having a trial,” defense attorney Alton Peterson told the Associated Press. “But we had nine who said Eric did, and we’re having a second trial.”

Prosecutors argue that Chambers was too severely injured, with burns to her moth and larynx, to articulate any words, reports MailOnline.

The retrial is expected to last at least one more week.

Tellis faces also another murder charge after being accused of the torture death of Taiwanese student Meing-Chen Hsiao, 34, in Monroe, Louisiana. No trial date has been set for that case.

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