Attention focused on Panola as Tellis trial begins
By Ernest Herndon, Enterprise-Journal and Rupert Howell,
Pike County jurors Monday have been selected to decide the Panola County case of a man accused of dousing a woman with flammable liquid, setting her on fire and leaving her to burn to death.
Jurors were advised to go home and pack for 10 days and strongly warned not to talk to the media, several of whom were present at Monday’s jury selection at the courthouse in Magnolia.
Several deputies and court officials including Circuit Clerk, Sheriff and District Attorney, made the trip south to Pike County Sunday, with all expected to be in their places today, Tuesday, for opening statements.
Meanwhile Batesville Police Department was setting up a perimeter around the courthouse’s front parking lot that is being reserved for media, satellite trucks and tents hosting the live feed from the courtroom.
Tents and obstacles such as the Emergency Management school bus have been strategically placed to block a clear view of the courthouse’s rear entrance, an area that will be secured throughout the trial.
Jury selection began at 9 a.m. Monday at the courthouse in Magnolia for the trial of Quinton Verdell Tellis, 29, who is being tried for capital murder in the 2014 burning death of Jessica Chambers, 19, of Courtland.
The crime was reported nationwide and this week several national as well as regional news outlets are in town for the event.
Attorneys chose 12 jurors plus and three alternates from a jury pool of some 375 people. The jury was transported from Magnolia to Batesville late Monday and will be sequestered during the trial, which may last up to two weeks.
Defense attorneys are Darla Palmer and Alton Peterson. District Attorney John Champion and assistant D.A. Jay Hale are prosecuting. Judge Gerald Chatham will preside.
Chambers was found walking from her blazing car in Dec. of 2014.
She was burned over 98 percent of her body, and died from her injuries in a Memphis hospital.
She had been seen less than two hours before in a convenience store near her home.
In 2015, Tellis was arrested in Louisiana on charges of using the debit cards of Meing-Chen Hsaio, 34, who was stabbed to death in Monroe.
He pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a debit card and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2016, Tellis was extradited to Mississippi for the Chambers murder case.
He was charged as a habitual offender because of two previous burglary convictions and a felony fleeing conviction.
Tellis had grown up in Courtland and knew Chambers before moving to Louisiana in 2015, authorities said.
The case prompted an FBI gang probe into Panola County in 2015 that resulted in the arrests of 17 people on charges including child endangerment, possession of stolen firearms, narcotics sales, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of counterfeit currency.
(Panolian publisher John Howell, Sr. contributed to this story.)