Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Christian-Newsom Torture-Murders Five Years Later

Channon Christian and Christoper Newsom

On the anniversary of the murders of Channon Christian and Christoper Newsom, guest writer David in Tennessee takes us back in time to remember Channon and Christoper and the horror that they suffered. Prayers are with the victim's families, who will have to sit through four heartbreaking trials again. Sprocket.

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.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to the Christians and Newsoms. How terrible for them to suffer again!

Tezi said...

My heart goes out to the Christians and Newsoms also. I can't believe they have to endure going through four trials again. Hopefully, though, maybe some of the defendants will realize that in all probability they will be found guilty again, and plead out. I hope that Davidson gets the death penalty again. I feel that all four of these defendants deserved the death penalty.

This case has given me nightmares, I can't imagine what it has done to the families and friends of the victims.

Judge Baumgarterner really needs to spend some time in jail and I really think he should apologize to the Christian and Newsom families for his actions.

JMO, MHO, and all other disclaimers.

Liz said...

I have followed David's posts for some years - rarely comment because after David's summaries what is left to say - what happened to these two young ones, and what is now happening to their parents is beyond any sane comprehension.

IMO the Judge could have been from Mars, insane or unqualified but nothing should have allowed these verdicts to be overturned.

Thanks David & Sprocket for the updates.

ritanita said...

Having watched the trials, I have to say that, in spite of his impairment, former Judge Baumgartner seemed to make the correct rulings.

I hope that the appeal is successful and that there are no new trials to come.

The Christian and Newsome families don't need to go through these awful trials again. They don't deserve to suffer one more minute in the courtroom.

Anonymous said...

At the January 12 hearing, Judge Blackwood listed these dates for the upcoming trials:

Davidson, June 11
Cobbins, August 27
Thomas, October 22
Coleman, November 12

The first time, Davidson was second, now he's first. His trial was the most brutal for the victims' families. Davidson's attorneys, at his direction, depicted Channon and Chris as druggies who came on their own free will to the Chipman Street house.

There is no reason to expect it to be any different this time.

We know that the most important factor in any trial are the twelve people who are put in the jury box. Blackwood said that the trials would again be held in Knoxville, with juries (including the one for Davidson) from somewhere else.

David In TN

Lilly said...

This is SO heartbreaking to learn :(

Anonymous said...

The only positive aspect of any new trial is the opportunity for the prosecution to present and argue the cases more effectively and passionately to ensure all four defendants get life sentences. Three of the defendants were sentenced to shorter terms. With good behavior, limited prision resources, push towards early release to reduce costs these defendants need to be locked up forever, no exception. you cannot rehabilitate animals.
I pray justice will be done and the families of Channon and Chris will not have to live through new trials.

Melissa said...

Unfortunately Anon, they cannot get sentences greater than what they were originally sentenced with.

Tom said...

I think they should all be placed in a field, with an inescapable fence around it, and no water;

then they should be set on fire, one each day;

the 'ringleader' can go be set on fire last.

Let them die of starvation and their wounds in each other's company. Play details of the crime to them from time to time, so they won't be bored waiting.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm an emotional wreck after reading this story. I'm a Black woman living in NC. I want something done. I cant stop crying and im so upset. I contacted the NAACP, aren't we all Americans seeking justice. Hopefully they will be respectable and supprt the families instead of running away like incompetent cowards. The Christian-Newsome families are definitely not receiving justice. Has anyone contacted credible talk shows such as Oprah or Dr. Phil? How about Nancy Grace, ID, 48 Hours etc...? This is a horrible thing. Race should not be an issue because it cloud the bigger picture-human torture and murder that may not receive due justice. I'm praying for the family and friends of the victims.

Anonymous said...

thats the most horrible thing ive ever heard. At least we know theres justice in afterlife.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely sickening!!!!!! This new judge must be on heavier drugs to re try these 4 sick inhumane idiots. To put these famiies through all this agian and even the graphics of this article is sickening in itself!!!!!!! And this is our justice system?? THIS IS DUSGUSTING!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"An eye for an eye...".
You always hear the stories of how criminals have their own code of ethics. Why, then, have these animals not gotten what they deserve? Do the others in prison view this degradation as "okay"?

ASC_ETN_PGR said...

Update: Vanessa Coleman is the only one on retrial, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood ordered our County Sheriff's department to take her to a local beauty salon to get her hair done prior to her trial date. The other three trials have been put on indefinite hold. A new judge has been assigned to those trials. It is evident that Blackwood is not right in the mind to not only demand the retrials, but to treat those victims left behind, the Christian and Newsom families, as if they had no rights and that the animals in this case have more rights than they do. It is also evident that Blackwood needs to be permanently retired. The evidence in the trials were beyond a preponderance of a doubt that these animals did this to these bright young kids.

David, your story brought back many memories of my having watched these trials on a daily basis. The pain and anguish of the families having to see their children in such condition was heartbreaking, to say the least.

Deena and Gary, Mary and Hugh, know that you are in my constant thoughts and constant prayers each and every day. I love you guys. You are such wonderful people, and knowing you has brought a light into my life that only one other person has been able to give me, that being John.

Anonymous said...

Ok, first of all, she wasn't taken to a local salon, her hair was done in prison by other inmates who take babering classes there, and it was died with kool-aid. Her re-trial did not help her. And the other three convictions stand. I wish these monsters a slow horrible death, and I hope they are disgraced in prison and live in fear of their lives everyday.

Anonymous said...

I have cried and prayed for these families for seven years. My son was at ut during this horrific daughter is there now...I pray for the safety of our college students that they will be protected from such sick scum that roams this earth! I pray that each of those barbarians receive their due punishment on this earth and forever burn in the after life!