BATESVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A man jailed in Louisiana on a theft-related charge involving a debit card now faces a capital murder charge in the burning death of a 19-year-old Mississippi woman, authorities said Wednesday.
District Attorney John Champion said Quentin Verdell Tellis, 27, was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in the death of Jessica Chambers on Dec. 6, 2014.
On that night, she was doused with a flammable liquid and burned over 98 percent of her body when she was found walking from her blazing car in the rural Mississippi town of Courtland, authorities said. She died at a Memphis hospital hours after she was found.
Champion says Tellis and Chambers knew each other but would not describe their relationship or give a motive. However, Champion did say he believed it was a "personal crime."
The horrific circumstances surrounding the young woman's death garnered national attention and cast light on concerns about violent crime in rural towns like Courtland, where Chambers lived.
Tellis is being held in the Ouachita Parish Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana. He was arrested in August on three counts of unauthorized use of a debit card.
Monroe police in November identified Tellis as a suspect in the death of Meing-Chen Hsiao, a recent University of Louisiana at Monroe graduate from Taiwan who was found dead in her apartment in August, killed by stabbing. Tellis has not been charged in the 34-year-old Hsiao's death but has been charged with using her debit cards after she died.
Tellis was arrested Aug. 20 by the Monroe Police Department on three counts of unauthorized use of a debit card that belonged to Hsiao, taking $1,000. An affidavit filed by police in the case says Tellis admitted to using the card under questioning, and that there are ATM photos of him using the card.
Tellis is also charged with one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, after police found a quarter pound of marijuana in a bedroom at his residence. Police say Tellis admitted to selling marijuana. Bail was set at $200,000 on the Louisiana charges.
The affidavit states Tellis was on parole in Mississippi at the time of the crime and has previously been convicted of burglary.