The Bizarre Case Of The Jessica Chambers Murder

On December 6, 2014, first responders in Courtland, Mississippi received a call about a vehicle fire. They rushed to the scene and found a 2005 Kia Rio burning and started trying to put out the flames. However, this call became much more than a routine call when a young woman, dressed only in her underwear and covered head to toe in burns approached them and asked for help (via Darkhorse Press).

The woman was 19-year-old, Jessica Chambers. They quickly turned their attention toward the severely burned Chambers and she was transported by helicopter from the small, rural town in Mississippi where she died the next morning.

Despite a suspect going to trial — twice — there hasn't been a conviction in the case and it remains officially unsolved. However, according to Buzzfeed, the case has attracted the attention of web sleuths who comb through social media looking for any clue that investigators may have missed and develop their own, oftentimes outlandish theories about who really killed Jessica Chambers.

Who was Jessica Chambers?

Jessica Chambers grew up in Courtland, Mississippi, a town with a population of 526, per World Population Review. According to Buzzfeed, Chambers lived with her mother, across the street from her grandmother, and her father and stepmother lived just down the street. She was small, weighing "90 pounds on a good day," her mother once said. 

Like a lot of teenagers, Jessica Chambers had a rebellious streak and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. At one point she moved out of her mother's house for months after she didn't approve of Jessica's relationship with her boyfriend. She had a somewhat rocky childhood, her father spent some time in prison, but by 2014 he was out and working as a mechanic for the local sheriff's department.

Despite its small-town stature, Courtland, Mississippi and the surrounding area have seen their fair share of crime and dangerous gangs, and Chambers wasn't immune to it. She had also run afoul of the law at some point and occasionally sold drugs (via Darkhorse Press). Still, Jessica was well-regarded and by all accounts well-liked by pretty much everyone she knew, which is what made the shocking way she was murdered all the more mysterious.

What happened leading up to Jessica Chamber's murder?

One of the most debated aspects of the Jessica Chambers case is what happened between Chambers leaving home and her murder. According to Buzzfeed, Jessica left home at 5 p.m. on the night of the murder, telling her mother that she was going to make a trip to a gas station nearby. Surveillance video from the gas station shows that Chambers was at the gas station (via Acton News 5). The video shows Chambers pumping gas, then as she walks toward the convenience store, she waves to someone off-camera, then walks over to them.

Jessica's mother, Lisa, called to check on her after the 19-year-old had been gone for two hours. She answered and said she would be home soon. According to Investigation Discovery, Investigators have mapped out the first hour after Chambers left home, but much of that night and what happened leading up to Chambers' death is unknown.

Firefighters discovered a strange crime scene

The first firefighters arriving on the scene saw Chambers' car on fire and noted that while there was an inferno raging inside the car, the trunk and engine compartment didn't seem to have as much damage to them (via Clarion Ledger). As the first responders got out of their vehicles, that was when they first spotted Jessica Chambers walking toward them, heavily burned. They quickly tended to her as best they could and tried to gather information from her. 

Given her state, she was unable to communicate clearly, but several first responders would later testify that they thought she had said Eric or Derrick when asked who had attacked her (via Investigative Discovery). The alleged Eric/Derrick piece of information became a major point of contention when a suspect — whose name wasn't Eric or Derrick — was put on trial.

According to Buzzfeed, Chambers' father's job at the Sheriff's department meant that he was notified. His wife then ran down the street to tell Chambers' mother what had happened and they were all at the hospital in Memphis when she died.

The Investigation and trial of Quentin Tellis

Investigators interviewed just about anyone who could've been in contact with Jessica. They even explored the possibility that her boyfriend — who was in prison at the time of the murder — had ordered a hit on her. That was ruled out. They also considered that maybe Chambers and gotten herself in trouble with a local gang. However, gang members came forward to deny their involvement and offer condolences to Chambers' family (via Darkhorse Press).

Eventually, the finger was pointed at Quentin Tellis, a gang member who investigators had been able to prove with phone records had been with Chambers the night of her murder. Tellis was put on trial in 2017. The defense argued that since Jessica Chambers said the crime had been committed by an Eric or Derrick, it couldn't have been committed by Tellis. The prosecution countered that Chambers' condition would've made talking difficult, if not impossible. They also argued that Tellis deleted all of his messages with Chambers after she died.

The trial ended in a hung jury, as did a second attempt to convict Tellis in 2018. According to Investigation Discovery, in 2019, Tellis was charged with a completely unrelated 2015 murder of University of Louisiana-Monroe graduate student Meing-Chen Hsaio.

The case draws internet sleuths

Jessica Chambers' murder drew a substantial amount of media coverage, especially in the days after it occurred. Over time the attention from the media started to trail off, the story had captured the attention of internet sleuths around the world.

According to Buzzfeed, amateur detectives began trying to solve the case on their own, however, they developed their own theories and sometimes followed information that was blatantly false, and at times even harassed Chambers' family and friends.

Chambers' mother Lisa — who died in 2021, according to Darkhorse Press — was frequently contacted on social media by people trying to solve her daughter's murder.

One of Chamber's ex-boyfriends, Bryan Rudd, was ruled out as a suspect by investigators early on in the investigation as he had been living in Iowa at the time, a move he had made to get out of Courtland after Chambers broke up with him. However, that didn't matter online, where some amateur investigators remained convinced that he still had something to do with the crime. They even wrote to his mother asking for answers, "Bryan can't take this anymore," she told Buzzfeed.