MONROE, La. (AP) — He's known as a suspect in the burning death of northern Mississippi teenager Jessica Chambers but on Monday, Quinton Tellis goes on trial on charges connected to a woman's death in Louisiana.
Tellis faces trial in Monroe for unauthorized use of an access card, using a debit card belonging to Meing-Chen Hsiao. The former Taiwanese exchange student was found stabbed to death in her apartment in August. The 27-year-old Tellis is also charged with one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Although Monroe police have identified Tellis as a suspect in Hsiao's death, he's never been charged with killing the 34-year-old. Tellis was living in Monroe with his new wife when he was arrested in August. Monroe police said Tellis and Hsiao, a University of Louisiana at Monroe graduate, knew each other.
Tellis could get a life sentence without parole as a habitual offender in Louisiana because of previous felony convictions in Mississippi. Tellis was twice convicted of burglary in Panola County, Mississippi, and once for fleeing police. He was released from prison in October 2014, two months before Chambers' killing.
Ouachita Parish Assistant District Attorney Neal Johnson says Monday will likely be spent arguing over pretrial motions. The defense wants to exclude evidence of Hsiao's homicide, while prosecutors want to introduce evidence of previous drug transactions. A six-person jury could also be struck. However, Johnson said state District Judge Larry Jefferson has agreed to recess the trial from noon Tuesday to Thursday because defense attorney M. Randall Donald has a scheduling conflict.
Donald did not return a phone call and an email Friday.
Tellis has been held in the Ouachita Parish Correctional Center on $200,000 bail since his arrest.
Chambers was found on fire on a rural road in Courtland in December 2014, next to her car, which was also burning. She died hours later in a Memphis, Tennessee, hospital, having suffered burns over 98 percent of her body.
The mystery of who killed her brought national attention for more than a year, as police interviewed more than 150 people, including Tellis. Authorities have not discussed a motive or the relationship between Tellis and Chambers, except to say they knew one another and were introduced by friends. Panola County District Attorney John Champion has said investigators analyzed more than 20,000 phone numbers and ultimately relied on technological data, not human sources, to point the finger at Tellis.
Authorities believe Tellis acted alone.
Champion has said Tellis is unlikely to face trial in the Chambers case until late this year or early next year. Extradition papers sent from the office of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to the office of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards ask that Tellis be sent back to Mississippi for trial even if he is convicted and sentenced to prison in Louisiana.