Jessica Chambers murder trial: Firefighters say woman set on fire fought for her life

A longtime firefighter said Wednesday he had never seen a victim so badly burned when he found a young Mississippi woman lying on the ground, barely able to speak, after being intentionally set on fire.

Daniel Cole testified Wednesday about the death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers at the capital murder trial of the man accused of killing her on Dec. 6, 2014.

"She was sitting on a blanket. Her hair was singed ... soot all around her nose and her mouth ... blistering all over her body," Cole, director of emergency operations for Panola County, told jurors.

"At one point I even laid down beside her," said Cole, fighting back tears.

Quinton Tellis, 29, is accused of killing Chambers, a former high school cheerleader from Courtland, Miss., who was found along a back road near a tree farm nearly three years ago.

The teenager, who had been doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze, was first discovered emerging from the woods near her burning car wearing only her underwear. She died four hours later at a Memphis hospital.

Tellis has pleaded not guilty in Chambers' death.

Prosecutors claim Tellis lied repeatedly to investigators about spending time with Chambers in the hours before she was found with burns on 93 percent of her body.

But defense attorneys say Chambers told firefighters on the scene that a man named Eric set her on fire -- not the man charged with her murder.

Cole as well as several first responders told jurors Wednesday that Chambers responded "Eric" when asked who had set her on fire.

"I asked who did this to you. She replied, 'Eric,'" firefighter Brandie Davis testified on the second day of the trial in in Batesville, Mississippi.

"She was a fighter. She was trying to answer questions. She was trying to tell us who she was," said Davis.

Sandra Hailey, a volunteer with the local fire department, also recounted her interaction with Chambers whom she has known since she was a girl.

"I bent down and I said, 'Honey, who did this to you?' And all I heard was Eric," Hailey told the courtroom.

On Tuesday, during opening statements, District Attorney John Champion acknowledged that that's not the name of the man he's prosecuting, but told jurors he believed evidence in the case would "change your mind."

The prosecution’s case will rely heavily on cell phone data that allegedly links Tellis and the victim on Chambers’ final day.

The horrific circumstances surrounding Chambers' death garnered national attention. The trial in Batesville, Miss., about 50 miles south of Memphis, is the focus of tight security. The jury is being sequestered and spectators are being screened by metal detectors before entering the courtroom.

On Wednesday, the jury was also shown a graphic photo that Cole took of Chambers upon arriving on the scene.

Cole described being haunted by the image of Chambers -- her lips black with soot -- telling jurors, "I see that picture I took every morning and every night."