The Christian-Newsom Torture-Murders Five Years Later
by David in Tennessee
Five years ago, on the night and following morning of January 6 and 7, 2007, University of Tennessee student, Channon Christian, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom were abducted at an apartment complex in Knoxville, Tennessee. The couple was about to drive to a party with friends when three armed men forced them into Channon's Toyota 4Runner and took them to a house about 3.5 miles away.
At the house, both were raped, tortured, and murdered. Chris Newsom was anally gang-raped. Channon Christian was raped orally, anally, and vaginally. Both were brutally beaten and cleaning fluid was poured down Channon's throat in an (unsuccessful) attempt to destroy DNA evidence.
According to the medical examiner, Channon Christian was found at the Chipman Street house in a trash can wrapped in five garbage bags. She was bound so tightly her knees were touching her cheeks. Christian was alive when placed in the trash can and died of suffocation. She had a plastic bag over her head. Her body had bruising and abrasions indicating rape with blunt trauma and an object. Her vaginal area had been kicked bloody.
The attorneys for the supposed ringleader, Lemaricus Davidson, called this "consensual sex."
Christopher Newsom, as described by the medical examiner, was raped with an object hours before he was killed. His bare feet were bound and he had been led or dragged to a railroad track a short distance from the house were Channon's body was found. Newsom's face was wrapped in a sweatshirt with a hole in it where he was shot in the head. His hands were tied behind his back and he was gagged with socks. Newsom was shot three times, the third to the head caused death. He was dead when his body was set on fire at the railroad track.
When Newsom's body was found, his mother, a genteel lady, wanted to see it. The police would not let her. She put her arms around the body bag.
The four suspects, Lemaricus Davidson, his half-brother Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, and Vanessa Coleman were arrested a few days later. Davidson was hiding in a house in Knoxville and was wearing Chris Newsom's shoes when the police found him. He took them off but they were found in a corner of the house. Cobbins, Thomas, and Coleman had fled to Kentucky. They were visiting Davidson that weekend and were at his house by chance.
Davidson, Cobbins, and apparently Davidson's friend, Eric Boyd carried out the abduction. Boyd was convicted in federal court in 2008 of helping Davidson escape. There wasn't enough evidence to charge Boyd in the murders.
It should be emphasized that the killers almost got clean away with it. Davidson's fingerprint was found on an envelope in Channon Christian's SUV. When run through the AFIS database, Davidson's name and address came up. Without this fingerprint, The police would not have gone to the Chipman street house and found Channon Christian's body.
Each of the four suspects blamed the others and claimed not to have done the killing. There was overwhelming DNA evidence against Davidson and conclusive forensic evidence against Cobbins. Thomas didn't leave any DNA but admitted to being in the house at the time, claiming he was stoned on drugs. Coleman also admitted being in the house but claimed to be a prisoner herself. Cobbins was her boyfriend.
There was also semen from two unidentified males found on Channon Christian' undergarments. The suspects said they were the only ones in the house, but they can't be trusted, to say the least.
Each suspect was tried separately. Cobbins was convicted in August, 2009 and sentenced to life without parole. Davidson was convicted in November that year and sentenced to death. Thomas was convicted a month later and sentenced to life without parole. Vanessa Coleman, the only female, was found not guilty of every charge relating to Newsom and not guilty of murder regarding Christian. She was convicted of facilitation of Channon Christian's murder and was sentenced to 53 years.
In 2011, it was learned that Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over all four trials, was addicted to prescription drugs that were provided by probationers in his court. Among other things, he had sex with one of his drug suppliers in judge's chambers during one of the trials. Baumgartner was eventually disbarred after resigning in disgrace from the bench.
On December 1, 2011, Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who took over Baumgartner's cases, overturned all four verdicts and ordered new trials for all four suspects. Judge Blackwood ruled "structural errors" made new trials necessary. This supposes that Baumgartner's drug addiction made him unsound and everything he did suspect.
The Knox County District Attorney's office has appealed Blackwood's ruling to the Tennessee Supreme Court. There is supposed to be a hearing on January 12 to set the dates for the new trials. Despite the murders taking place place five years ago this weekend, the case is still undecided. We don't know how long the Tennessee Supreme Court will take to make their decision or whether there will be any trials in 2012.