Return to Transcripts main page


Special Report: Justice For Jessica. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 9, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR BARRY THOMPSON, LEAD DETECTIVE, PANOLA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I look at it as two ways. It either tells me a scared person was trying to cover up evidence, or the meanest person I've ever seen in my life committed this crime.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): One unspeakable crime.

COLE HALEY, FORMER CHIEF, COURTLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT: She was saying, help me, help me. Somebody set me on fire.

KAYE (voice-over): A mystery that baffled investigators.

JOHN CHAMPION, DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE 17TH DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI: We all feel like it's just right there. Why can't we figure it out?

KAYE (voice-over): And put one tiny southern town in the crosshairs.

CHAMPION: I think the entire community was shocked.

A.J. PRINCE, SISTER OF JESSICA CHAMBERS: You go in the grocery store, did he do it? Did she do it?

THERESE APEL, BREAKING NEWS REPORTER, THE CLARION-LEDGER: Social media took a role in this case that I have not seen in any case before.

THERESA FLEMING, COURTLAND, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: They were telling flat -out, blatant lies.

KAYE (voice-over): The search for a killer --

CHAMPION: Thank you all for coming this morning.

KAYE (voice-over): -- that no one saw coming.

KESHA MEYER, JESSICA CHAMBERS' FRIEND: When I heard about it, I was like, no, not him.

BEN CHAMBERS, FATHER OF JESSICA CHAMBERS: He's a monster, you know. There's no telling what else he's done.

APEL: That is the disturbing part for so many people, what if we're just looking at the tip of the iceberg?

KAYE (voice-over): A CNN special report, JUSTICE FOR JESSICA.


MEYER: Courtland is pretty nice. It's just laid back and, you know, it's country. I enjoyed it. It's just -- it was boring. It was just really, really boring.

CHAMPION: I would call it a small, close-knit community. Everybody knows everybody.

There's no industry there. There's a volunteer fire station there. There's this train that runs through the middle of town, but it's mostly residences and very, very rural land.

MEYER: I'd hoped to maybe leave sometime soon. When I'd be able to get on my feet, I'll be able to leave from here. And, you know, that's me and Jessica were going to do, but, you know, it isn't happening.

KAYE (voice-over): Nineteen-year-old Jessica Chambers was one of Kesha Meyer's best friends, a bubbly Courtland, Mississippi native with a big Southern heart.

MEYER: Busybody. She doesn't sit still. Jessica's always on the road, always moving. She had a little car.

She said it was like peace. Like she didn't have to worry about anybody telling her where can, cannot go, and how long she could be out.

She had her head on right. It's just she hung out with the wrong crowds at the wrong time and was with the wrong people at the wrong place.

KAYE (on camera): If you were looking for trouble, could you find it in Courtland?

APEL: Absolutely. Up front, you didn't see that when you went to Courtland. You could go to the gas station and never know that, potentially, in the parking lot on a regular basis, that's where some of the shady dealings were taking place.

THOMPSON: There's not another store around here until you get to the next town down, which is Pope, or go to Batesville. And pretty much, you can get about anything you want here. It's like a small grocery store in a small community.

APEL: And during the day, it's just like any other gas station in a small town. Now, one of the things that was said to me by someone who was in that gas station was --I dare you to come back here after night.

THOMPSON: We've made a couple of, you know, possession cases in the parking lot, but the gas station as a whole wasn't a known crime area. Overall, Courtland is a very safe area.

KAYE (on camera): Do murders often happen in Courtland?

CHAMPION: Absolutely not. I can only think of one other in that area in the 23 years I've been doing this.

MEYER: That morning, maybe about 8:30, 9:00, Jessica came by, and, you know, we do our usual. When she came pick me up, she had a boy with her that time. And mind you, he's a new dude, too.

It was kind of weird to me, but she didn't say why he was with here, none of that. She just had him in the car with her.

CHAMPION: They rode around until approximately noon when she took both of the friends back to where they live.

MEYER: And ever since then, I didn't hear nothing from her all through the whole day.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica spent the rest of the day napping and watching T.V. on her mom's couch. Until early that evening when her phone rang.

CHAMPION: We know that she got a phone call at around five-ish, 5:15. And she left.

[20:05:01] LISA CHAMBERS, MOTHER OF JESSICA CHAMBERS: She was going to get her something to eat and clean out her car. She'd be back in a little bit.

KAYE (voice-over): But nearly three hours later, darkness had long fallen on Panola County. And a typically quiet Courtland evening was about to change.

HALEY: We were sitting around just talking and tone went off for a car fire.

KAYE (voice-over): But after Chief Cole Haley arrived at the scene along Heron Road, he quickly realized this was no ordinary car fire.

HALEY: I know all the guys in my department, they're all seeing -- I know every one of them could close their eyes right now and still see it just like it was yesterday. I know I can.

KAYE (voice-over): A few yards away from the burning car, they spotted a young woman emerging from the woods wearing only her underwear.

HALEY: She was saying, help me, help me. I could see her mouth and tongue and stuff were charred real bad. I looked at her and I said, no, this is Jessica Chambers is who this is.

I asked her, you know, what happened? And she said, somebody set me on fire.

KAYE (voice-over): Someone had doused Jessica's car in gasoline and set it on fire with Jessica trapped inside. Yet somehow, she had fought her way out. HALEY: She kept saying she was going to die. And I was telling her

the whole time, you know, no, you're not, you're going to hang in there.

KAYE (voice-over): Minutes later, paramedics arrived and immediately began preparing her for transport.

HALEY: They were asking her constantly, who did this? Who did this?

CHAMPION: Either Eric or Derrick were the two names she said.

KAYE (voice-over): But by the time the Sheriff's Department arrived, Jessica's condition had deteriorated and her airway was closing.

THOMPSON: Ninety-plus percent of her body was burned, covered in second and third-degree burns. It was terrible.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica was then airlifted to the hospital while the Sheriff and Detective Thompson told her father the unthinkable news.

Ben Chambers was a man they knew well. He ran the mechanic shop for the Sheriff's Department.

B. CHAMBERS: You know, I said, how bad is it, Barry, you know? And she isn't hurt bad, is she? And -- I mean, he said, yes, man, it's really pretty bad.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica's parents then raced to the hospital an hour away.

L. CHAMBERS: When I walked in the room, it was just as if my heart died. I talked to her and told her that mom and daddy was there, that daddy was in the waiting room. He was a big old baby. He couldn't come in there.

I told her that we loved her. And I was right there with her if she needed to go on. We didn't want her to hurt.

KAYE (voice-over): Moments later, 19-year-old Jessica Lane Chambers died from her injuries.

B. CHAMBERS: What could a 19-year-old girl do to somebody to do this, you know?

FLEMING: Jessica was brutally murdered, burned alive, and nobody knows who did it.


CHAMPION: I got a call basically that a young girl had been burned alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumors are spiraling out of control in Panola County tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone set Jessica Chambers on fire in her car along a country road near Highway 51.

CHAMPION: We brought out search and rescue the next day and walked them about a mile in either direction, looking for evidence. I think the entire community was shocked.

It takes a lot of anger. It takes a lot of total lack of respect for human decency to actually pour a substance on somebody and then light them while they're alive. That really left everybody wondering, you know, how could this happen where we live?

THOMPSON: The car was pulled into this driveway. It pretty much nosed up to the fence and then went up that hill.

KAYE (on camera): Were they able to collect any DNA from the ground or the car or from her?

THOMPSON: Everything was burned.

CHAMPION: And couple that with the fact that there is no street talk. Period. We knew we had a true mystery on our hands.

THOMPSON: Generally, in this county, if somebody commits a crime, within 24 hours, they're going to tell somebody that's going to tell somebody, and we're going to find out. That did not happen in this case.

KAYE (on camera): Did you ever look into finding Eric or Derrick?

CHAMPION: Oh, yes. That was our first lead in the case.

THOMPSON: If your name was Eric and you lived anywhere close to Courtland, you had some explaining to do.

ERIC BIBBS, PANOLA COUNTY RESIDENT INTERVIEWED BY THE POLICE: He said there was an accident, I think, down the road, and your name was mentioned. And I was like, well, no, I've been here.

DERRICK TURNER, PANOLA COUNTY RESIDENT INTERVIEWED BY THE POLICE: I was just called in to, you know -- for an interview about a situation I didn't know nothing about.

CHAMPION: We have interviewed every single Eric or Derrick that we know of that exists in Panola County and the surrounding areas.

KAYE (on camera): And nothing?

CHAMPION: Absolutely nothing.


CHAMPION: Yes, sir. I'm doing good. How are you?

KAYE (voice-over): Investigators would learn from various burn experts that their big lead may not have been a lead at all.

APEL: The severity of her airway burns would make it so that anything that she said would not be clear and would not be dependable.

[20:15:04] THOMPSON: Knowing how badly she was burned, I don't put a lot of faith into the actual word, Eric.

KAYE (voice-over): Instead, investigators would put their faith in the people of Courtland to help them solve the most heartless crime their town had ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I called the Sheriff's Department, and I told them everything I knew.

CHAMPION: We've interviewed an excess of a hundred people in this case. We have yet to have a single person refuse to interview with us.

KAYE (on camera): And why do you think that is?

CHAMPION: I think people down in the community want whoever it is that did this caught.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was real close to my age, and it scares all these younger people.

PRINCE: I think a lot of people did get paranoid. You go in the grocery store. You're standing beside them, did he do it? Did she do it?

FLEMING: There was fear there. Jessica was brutally murdered, burned alive, and nobody knows who did it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a story that's now making headlines across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The search for a killer in northern Mississippi.

KAYE (voice-over): Days after her death, news of Jessica's shocking murder had gone national. And soon, it would go viral.

PRINCE: We wanted everybody to know who Jessica was. And the best way to do it was social media. Justice for Jessica.

KAYE (voice-over): But a page designed to celebrate Jessica's life would also inspire an obsession online with finding her killer, putting Jessica's loved ones and her community in the crosshairs.

PRINCE: To see the pure hate -- you know, her mama had it done, you know, her sister did it -- it hurts.

FLEMING: The internet detectives came in and just attacked people just for knowing Jessica, mind you.

KAYE (voice-over): Theresa Fleming's son is Jessica's ex-boyfriend. And that fact alone, she says, was enough to make him a target of false speculation on the internet.

FLEMING: They were telling flat-out, blatant lies. APEL: Social media took a role in this case that I have not seen in

any case that I've ever dealt with before. A lot of these internet commenters, they immediately wanted it to be Mississippi and a race issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just done gotten crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care if you were pink, purple, Black, White. He could have been White. He could have been Black. We don't know.

FLEMING: It was people inboxing my cousin, saying that their children should be burned alive. You better watch your children. So, yes, I was afraid.

APEL: Those folks would say anything about anybody. A good example of that would be Ali Alsanai, the gas station clerk, who was forced to leave Courtland because of the social media backlash against him.

KAYE (voice-over): Unsubstantiated rumors swirled online that Ali had ties to area gangs and Jessica's murder after photos he had posted on social media were discovered of him posing with cash and guns.

ALI ALSANAI, GAS STATION CLERK: I don't know no gangs, nothing. I've been here my whole life, at store, just making a living in this city.

KAYE (on camera): Did you have anything to do with Jessica's --

ALSANAI: Nope, nope.

APEL: There were a lot of people who, right off the bat, didn't like him honestly because he was of Arabic descent.

THOMPSON: Ali received death threats in this because people thought he did it just because of his nationality.

KAYE (voice-over): While Ali was never a suspect in Jessica's murder, he was a key witness and had given detectives the most crucial piece of their timeline yet, video evidence of the last known place Jessica was seen alive.

THOMPSON: He was very helpful. He said she had been here, and that's when we started viewing video here.

APEL: You see her pull in. You see her walk in, and she waves to somebody off camera. At some point, she stops to pick up a penny on the ground.

CHAMPION: She purchases gas and then she leaves.

KAYE (on camera): And do we know how much gasoline she purchased?

CHAMPION: I believe she purchased $14 worth of gas.

MEYER: Jessica usually put like $4 or $3 dollar in, here and there. She don't put no full tank like she did that night. ALSANAI: Like, wow, you really spending $14 in gas? She's like, yes,

I'm going somewhere. I'm like, OK, well, have fun.

MEYER: That's the only thing that caught my attention, was like why is she putting this much gas in her car for?

KAYE (on camera): So where does Jessica go after the gas station?


KAYE (voice-over): Months had passed since Ben Chambers' daughter was brutally murdered, but his pain had only gotten worse.

B. CHAMBERS: I don't come in here a whole lot, you know. I just try to put it in the back of my mind, you know, that she's still here.

KAYE (on camera): Is that one of your favorite pictures of her?

B. CHAMBERS: Mm-hmm.

KAYE (on camera): She had a great smile.

B. CHAMBERS: Oh, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica Chambers was born in February of 1995, the youngest of her parents' combined five children.

PRINCE: She was a happy kid, very happy. And she got to where she wanted to do everything I was doing.

L. CHAMBERS: Jessica fell in A.J.'s footsteps. She wanted to play softball.

PRINCE: Her brothers played. I played. She just thought it was the best thing and then she found cheerleading. And when she found cheerleading, nothing compared to cheerleading.

KAYE (voice-over): In high school, Jessica joined the South Panola Cheerleading Squad, and her big circle of friends got even bigger. It was then, Ben Chambers says, that his daughter began hanging out with a different crowd.

[20:24:56] B. CHAMBERS: Jessica changed a lot her senior year in high school, and she's back to cheerleading or whatever, you know. She didn't want to come around as much or whatever, you know, because she knew that I wouldn't approve of who she was running around with.

FLEMING: Jessica had more Black friends than she did White friends, but that doesn't necessarily make that a wrong crowd.

B. CHAMBERS: She started seeing a boy named Bryan and I didn't approve of, you know.

FLEMING: Bryan was the first boy of color that Jessica had ever dated openly. It wasn't just infatuation. He actually loved Jessica. MEYER: Jessica loved Bryan. She said that he took care of her. He

made sure she was straight, you know, tried to get Jessica into working and trying to keep her out of trouble.

KAYE (voice-over): But trouble was all that Jessica's parents saw in Bryan.

KAYE (on camera): What was her relationship like with Bryan Rudd?

L. CHAMBERS: Abusive. I've seen him hit her.

KAYE (voice-over): An accusation which Bryan and his mother adamantly deny.

FLEMING: Lisa nor Ben have ever seen Bryan hit Jessica. I've never seen Bryan hit Jessica.

KAYE (voice-over): The real problem that Jessica's parents had with Bryan, his mom says, was the color of his skin.

FLEMING: One day, Bryan came home. He asked me, could Jessica live with us because, he said, Jessica's mom had put her out because him and her was dating. And I did -- I asked Bryan. I said why, and he said because I'm Black.

KAYE (on camera): Some who we've talked to said that you didn't approve of her dating Black men. Is that true, or --

L. CHAMBERS: I have no problem with it. I have -- that's her choice.

B. CHAMBERS: I don't believe in that different racial -- just the way I was raised, I don't believe in it. You know, it's --

KAYE (on camera): So he is a Black guy.


KAYE (on camera): And you didn't want her dating him?


KAYE (voice-over): Jessica and Bryan's tumultuous romance eventually fizzled on its own, and Bryan moved out of town. But Jessica's troubles had already gotten worse.

In May of 2012, two and a half years before Jessica's life was taken, her 28-year-old brother died suddenly in a car wreck off Highway 35.

PRINCE: She was really lost after that. They were super close. And Jessica didn't know how to cope.

MEYER: She'd always say every day, she wanted to see her brother, and she'd rather be with him. And, you know, she's tired of living the lifestyle she lives, and she's tired of being around all the people that she's being around all the time.

KAYE (voice-over): People who didn't always have Jessica's best interests at heart.

MEYER: She used to always put herself down all the time because they called her a hoe. They called her junkie. She was a daily user of weed.

We both are, you know, but Jessica wasn't no fiend or nothing. She wasn't strung out like people tried to make her seem like she was. She just liked to get high.

KAYE (voice-over): And getting high in Courtland, Mississippi, as in so many towns across the country, was not uncommon.

MEYER: Ever corner you turned on, every street you turned on, somebody's, you know, selling dope or somebody's smoking it.

KAYE (on camera): Was she going down a bad path, would you say?

CHAMPION: She was a higher risk victim because of the fact that she did dabble a little bit in drugs and the fact that she did dabble or hang out with some people that had been to the penitentiary.

KAYE (voice-over): A world that hit close to home. Years earlier, her father served prison time for possession of methamphetamine.

THOMPSON: But since, Ben has turned his life around. He's turned his family around. And there's one thing that I know above all about Ben, and that is Ben loved his children. And it didn't matter what they did or how bad it was, he'd be there for them.

KAYE (voice-over): Months before Jessica's murder, he helped his daughter enter a brief voluntary women's treatment center. And after a few weeks when she returned home, Jessica appeared to be moving in a new direction.

B. CHAMBERS: She got her a job. She was working every day.

PRINCE: She wanted to go back to church. She wanted to stop smoking.

THOMPSON: Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody can overcome them if they're given the chance, and I think she wanted to make a change.

KAYE (voice-over): But tragically, for Jessica, time was running out.

KAYE (on camera): Did you ever get the feeling that she was afraid of someone or something, that something might happen to her?

L. CHAMBERS: The week of her death.


KAYE (voice-over): Eight months after Jessica Chambers' murder, 250 miles from her Mississippi town, police arrived at an off-campus apartment near the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

QUENTIN HOLMES, SR., FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE, MONROE POLICE DEPARTMENT: It was a pretty horrific crime scene that my detectives entered into. KAYE (voice-over): They discovered the dead body of a recent graduate

student stabbed at least 30 times.

NEAL JOHNSON, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, OUACHITA PARISH, LOUISIANA: The multiple puncture wounds indicated to me that someone had tortured her prior to killing her. This a cold-blooded individual.

HOLMES: One of the first thoughts that went through my mind was this is not his first time. Almost like he's used to it.

KAYE (voice-over): A cold and callous killer who, investigators say, tortured his victim to death for her debit card.

JOHNSON: Her debit card was being used after her death, and two of the withdrawals occurred in the state of Mississippi. That's what led us to the prime suspect in this case.

KAYE (voice-over): A case that Mississippi detectives would soon link to their search for Jessica Chambers' killer.

THOMPSON: I still feel pretty much the same as I did before with the utmost drive and desire for this investigative team to solve this case.

KAYE (voice-over): The biggest and the most personal case Lead Detective Barry Thompson had ever faced. Jessica's father was not only a friend but a colleague as well.

[20:35:02] THOMPSON: Ben actually supervises our maintenance shop, and that's part of the reason that we keep it covered up.

B. CHAMBERS: I'd just be glad when they do something with it, get rid of it, you know. I ain't never got to see it again.

THOMPSON: It's very seldom that a day go by that I don't look at least a part this case file and try to start on something.

KAYE (voice-over): Even if that something led investigators in a different direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen suspected Panola County gang members are facing charges after a major FBI roundup this morning. Gang behavior --

KAYE (voice-over): Back in December, officials had announced a wave of arrests across Panola County.

APEL: They ended up having an FBI sting. They called it Operation Bite Back. And they were able to arrest 17 people on various drug and gang-related charges based on information they gathered during the Chambers case.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica's case wasn't solved, but it had shed new light on gang and drug activity in her hometown.

CHAMPION: We know that there are a good bit of drugs that are coming into the communities because of the gang activity.

KAYE (on camera): So trouble is close by.

CHAMPION: Trouble is absolutely close by.

There are several people that she hung with that are in prison, were headed to prison.

KAYE (voice-over): Including the man Jessica Chambers had most recently been dating, Travis Sanford, a known drug offender who had been incarcerated on a burglary charge weeks before Jessica's murder.

APEL: There were people that believed that even though he was in prison, that he may have heard that she was seeing other guys and that he could have called something down from prison.

KAYE (on camera): Like a hit?

APEL: Yes, it could have been a hit.

THOMPSON: We've looked at that theory as such, but we're not dealing with the mob here, you know, calling a hit on a girlfriend while you're locked up because she might be messing around on you. Not likely in this area.

CHAMPION: He has cooperated with us 100 percent in this case.

KAYE (on camera): And you ruled that out?

CHAMPION: We absolutely ruled it out.

I've seen all of the speculation out there from the internet sources and what not. And everybody was speculating early on that this was probably a gang-related deal, but I never have thought that. We felt from the get-go that this was a -- something very personal towards Jessica.

THOMPSON: I look at it as two ways. Either way, to burn a human body is unexplainable. But it either tells me a scared person was trying to cover up evidence, or the meanest person I've ever seen in my life committed this crime.

APEL: So the question then as you deal with all the different theories was, was there somebody that was mad at her?

KAYE (on camera): Did you ever get the feeling that she was afraid of someone or something, that something might happen to her?

L. CHAMBERS: The week of her death. On Monday, she come in. And it was, Mama, these bitches think I'm snitching.

B. CHAMBERS: She said, everybody, Daddy, thinks I'm snitching. I said, who? She wouldn't say. She says, just because you work for the Sheriff's Department, they think I'm snitching on them.

KAYE (voice-over): One of many rumors that only distracted investigators from the real mystery. What happened to Jessica after she was last seen at M&M's gas station?

KAYE (on camera): So where does Jessica go after the gas station?

CHAMPION: We know that she went and picked somebody up.

KAYE (voice-over): According to investigators' timeline, Jessica and this individual drove to a residence on the outskirts of Courtland.

CHAMPION: There were two or three people and we have spoken to them.

KAYE (on camera): And they confirmed seeing Jessica Chambers?

CHAMPION: They confirmed seeing her there, and they confirmed that somebody was in the car with her, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): The pair then headed out of town to get something to eat.

Did Jessica ever return to Courtland?

CHAMPION: Yes. We know she came back to Courtland roughly 6:30-ish, 6:45, somewhere in that range.

KAYE (voice-over): But for the next hour, Jessica is virtually missing.

CHAMPION: Between 6:30 and 7:30, nobody saw her. Other than one text message that she sent and the phone call to her mother, her phone is completely silent.

KAYE (on camera): And she's normally pretty active.

CHAMPION: Extremely active, yes. Something is happening in that hour to where she's not using her phone.

Was it because she was being held against her will, or was she with a friend talking and just not using her phone? We just didn't know. I mean, that was what the mystery was for us.

KAYE (voice-over): All investigators knew for sure was that Jessica was somewhere in Courtland and she was not alone.

How many sleepless nights have you had about that mystery hour?

CHAMPION: Many. Many. I mean, it's -- you know, we all feel like it's just right there. Why can't we figure it out? And then day and day and day goes by and we can't.

B. CHAMBERS: Yes, sir.

That was the chief deputy oh, get here as soon as I could. They had something to tell us or whatever.

[20:40:02] Thank god. And I've been waiting on here for a long time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) B. CHAMBERS: You know, she used to come a lot here with me. She'd

help me work on. She'd help me do anything. She'd get greasy, man, get grease all over her.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessica Chambers grew up in the shop at the Sheriff's Department, watching her dad fix just about anything. But today, the one thing Ben Chambers desperately wants to fix, he knows he never will.

B. CHAMBERS: I wish, you know, I could have been there to save her, you know. And I start wondering, you know, how bad is she suffering? You know, what was she doing her last minutes of her life?

KAYE (voice-over): The last minutes before his daughter was set on fire and left for dead on the side of the road just a few miles from home.

B. CHAMBERS: Ready? Good hit, good hit.

[20:45:03] KAYE (voice-over): The same home where Ben Chambers is now raising Jessica's little sister. When you look at Annabelle, do you see Jessica?

B. CHAMBERS: Oh, God, yes. Spitting image, you know. It's scary sometimes, you know. Sometimes, I forget and call her Jessica, you know. I do.

I got to keep going forward to raise her right, you know. And you know, like it's said, God has a reason for everything, you know.

He answers prayers. He might not answer them when we want them answered, but he answers them.


B. CHAMBERS: Hello? Yes, sir.

That was the chief deputy oh, get here as soon as I could. They had something to tell us or whatever.

KAYE (voice-over): Just days after what should have been Jessica's 21st birthday, Ben Chambers was back in the shop when he got the call he'd been praying for.

B. CHAMBERS: I just -- so many emotions. I just -- it's hard to describe.

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

KAYE (voice-over): Sheriff Darby came to deliver the news in person.

I got some of the best news I've been waiting for, for 14 months, to get, you know.

Oh, thank God, Sheriff. Thank God. Thank God.

CHAMPION: OK. Thank you all for coming this morning.

I would like to announce the indictment of Quinton Verdell Tellis in the death of Jessica Chambers. Quinton Tellis is 27 years old. He is from Courtland. But we do feel like, at this point, that he acted alone in this case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said they were friends. What kind of relationship did they have?

CHAMPION: The best I can classify it is they knew each other and they were friends. And that was as far as --

KAYE (voice-over): Friends who, investigators say, had only known each other for two weeks.

THOMPSON: Quinton grew up in this neighborhood. He had been here all his life.

KAYE (on camera): He would be someone who would know this area?

THOMPSON: Absolutely.

KAYE (voice-over): An area law enforcement knew Tellis. After serving a four-year burglary sentence, Tellis had only been out of prison for two months prior to Jessica's murder.

APEL: He was a validated member of the Vice Lord's gang. Now, that said, he remained a loner in spite of his gang affiliation, which is kind of unusual really. There are so many people who know of him but don't know who he really was.

KAYE (voice-over): Beyond what we know from his rap sheet, there is evidence that Tellis suffered at times from mental health issues.

Documents obtained by CNN reveal that he was hospitalized for depression at age 20. And in 2013, while incarcerated, Tellis reported feeling severely depressed and having suicidal thoughts.

THOMPSON: Through my investigations that I worked with Quinton, I've never had any problem with him. He's always been quite the laid back person. But time and being in prison can change things like that. It can change a person's attitude.

KAYE (voice-over): But could it have changed Quinton Tellis into a killer?

KAYE (on camera): What makes investigators so sure that he should be linked to this murder?

APEL: At the scene, of course, they were able to recover her phone, which plays a major part in pinning down, you know, the suspect in this investigation. But down the road a little ways, they also found her car keys.

THOMPSON: There was some DNA recovered from the keys.

KAYE (on camera): Will the DNA on the keys be useful in the case moving ahead?

THOMPSON: I think it will be very helpful.

KAYE (voice-over): And perhaps equally as helpful, according to Detective Thompson, will be the gas station surveillance video which not only captured what was happening at the store but more importantly, along the road beside it.

THOMPSON: It was a pretty good shot. You can see traffic coming from this way. You could especially see this driveway across from us, which is actually Tellis' mother's house.

KAYE (on camera): Is that what initially sent you across the way to Quinton Tellis' house to speak to him?

THOMPSON: He was just a person that had to be talked to at that point.

KAYE (voice-over): And Tellis was willing to talk. He was questioned by investigators just days after the incident and then again months later.

APEL: From what I understand, Quinton Tellis admitted to investigators that he was the last one to see her before she died.

KAYE (voice-over): Which meant Tellis had to have information about Jessica's final hour, investigators' mystery hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So can you tell us some of that missing time -- or the missing hour in that timeline from that night?

CHAMPION: We have absolutely filled that hour in.

KAYE (voice-over): Fourteen long months it had taken investigators to find their missing pieces. But by that time, Tellis was already linked to another brutal murder.

HOLMES: Once we learned about the Jessica Chambers murder, it really gave us a better insight into who we were dealing with, the manner in which both were killed was pretty horrific.

APEL: The girl in Louisiana, her name was Mandy. She was brutally stabbed to death. When she was found dead, they did find that he had used her credit cards to make some, you know, withdrawals at ATMs.

[20:50:05] KAYE (voice-over): Tellis denied any involvement in the victim's death but pled guilty to the unauthorized use of her debit card. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and would remain the lead suspect in her murder.

KAYE (on camera): If he was involved in both of these killings, what does it say about what he's capable of?

APEL: That, I think, is the disturbing part for so many people who have worked on this case is -- what if we're just looking at the tip of the iceberg? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, you all waited for arraignment this morning.


MEYER: When I heard about it, I was like, no, not him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does Mr. Tellis plead?

PALMERS: Mr. Tellis enters a plea of not guilty.

MEYER: I'm like, dude, I've been in the car with this guy and he killed my best friend? I was so close to a murderer. Everything just froze and I just stopped and I just went back to when she died.

KAYE (voice-over): December 6, 2014. That morning, Jessica Chambers was driving around town with her best friend, Kesha, and her new friend, Quinton Tellis, the man authorities now say would set Jessica on fire hours later.

[20:55:08] MEYER: I didn't get any kind of like vibe where, like, he scared me or gave me like a chill or something. It wasn't nothing like that. It was just like, OK, you're new.

KAYE (voice-over): Despite having spent all his life in Courtland, few people in town seemed to really know Tellis, let alone believe he was capable of something so violent.

APEL: And you saw a lot of people who were immediately saying, how do we know this is the right guy?

KAYE (voice-over): After months of false internet speculation about the guilt of Jessica's ex-boyfriends, the gas station worker, or even her own family, residents like Theresa Fleming were waiting for proof.

FLEMING: I stay neutral because I know what happened to me and my family and how we were accused, persecuted. And I refuse to do that to somebody else. That's for the law to determine, not me.

MEYER: I do think he did and then I don't think he did. You can't tell me that, you know, you don't know something because you last were with her. But then I was like, no, he just got out of jail.

You know what I'm saying? What's his -- he's just isn't in a quick hurry to go back to jail for, you know. And then for him to kill somebody like Jessica? It's just not adding up.

THOMPSON: One of my theories is that something bad might have happened here, and Quinton might have believed that she was already dead. And just -- it was a cover up. That's one of my strongest theories.

KAYE (on camera): Was there any way to tell if there was any other bruising on her body? THOMPSON: Nothing was noted at the autopsy. However, we did take

some crime scene photos to a specialist, and he will be able to provide evidence or quite possible some other bruising on her body.

KAYE (on camera): Can you say where that bruising is?

THOMPSON: The upper body area. Like she was held.

KAYE (on camera): Held down?

THOMPSON: Yes. She's a tough little girl, I'll give you that.

KAYE (on camera): Do you think now that they're looking at the right person?

B. CHAMBERS: Oh, yes, ma'am, definitely. One hundred percent. They had 21 people to indict him, and they had enough evidence. All 21 to come back with an indictment. That's how much evidence they had.

KAYE (voice-over): Tellis has pled not guilty in the murder of Jessica Chambers and has denied any role in the death of the Louisiana student killed nearly eight months after Jessica's murder.

KAYE (on camera): What do you think about the fact that he might have killed another girl after killing your daughter?

B. CHAMBERS: Yes. Just, you know, so senseless. He's a monster. There's no telling what else he's done.

APEL: I think everybody wants to know why. Why these two? Why would -- why did they deserve this?

B. CHAMBERS: And my biggest question, you know, why? It hurts so bad, you know.

KAYE (on camera): You talk to her when you're here?

B. CHAMBERS: Mm-hmm.

KAYE (on camera): What do you want her to know?

B. CHAMBERS: I just -- you know, I just want her to know that daddy love her, you know, regardless of what happened. And, you know, nothing she had ever done could stop my love, you know.

KAYE (voice-over): And nothing Chambers says will stop him from getting justice for his little girl.

FLEMING: I think, honestly, Jessica's killer can be brought to justice, but there is no justice for Jessica. Because look what happened to Jessica. Jessica is not here anymore.

PRINCE: She was 19 years old. She didn't have time to live. She didn't get married. She didn't have kids.

B. CHAMBERS: Senseless. How somebody you never met can mess your whole life up like this, you know. Take something that, you know, can't never be replaced. Never.

Jessica Lane, I love you, baby girl. We're going to get justice someday. Someday.

TEXT: Quinton Tellis denied CNN's multiple requests for an interview. He remains the lead suspect in the death of Ming-Chan "Mandy" Hsiao.

A judge declared a mistrial in the case against Tellis for the murder of Jessica Chambers after a jury failed to reach a verdict. According to the district attorney, Tellis will be retried for Chambers' murder.