Lemaricus Devall Davidson,
a Memphis native, was sentenced to death in October 2009 for torturing
and killing a young couple in Knox County. The victims, Channon
Christian and Christopher Newsom, were on a date in 2007 when they
were carjacked by several armed men, including Davidson.
Murders of Channon Christian
and Christopher Newsom
Channon Gail Christian, 21, and Hugh Christopher
Newsom, Jr., 23, were a couple from Knoxville, Tennessee. They were
both raped, tortured and murdered after being kidnapped early on the
morning of January 7, 2007. Their vehicle had been carjacked.
Five suspects were arrested and charged in the
case. The grand jury indicted four of the suspects on counts of murder,
robbery, kidnapping, rape and theft. Three of those arrested, Letalvis
D. Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson and George Thomas, have been convicted
on multiple charges including several counts of felony murder. After a
jury trial Lemaricus Davidson was sentenced to death by lethal
injection and Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas were sentenced to
life in prison without the possibility of parole. Vanessa Coleman has
been convicted of facilitating the crimes and sentenced to 53 years in
prison, and Eric Dewayne Boyd has been convicted of federal charges as
accessory after the fact to carjacking and sentenced to 18 years in
Christian moved from Louisiana to
Tennessee with her family in 1997. She was a graduate of Farragut High
School and a senior majoring in sociology at the University of
Tennessee. On January 12, 2007, her family released a statement to
thank the Knoxville community "for all their prayers and everything."
A candlelight vigil was held on the university campus January 25, 2007
in her honor. In 2008, a Golf Tournament and Memorial Foundation were
established in Channon Christian's memory to provide a scholarship for
a Farragut High School Senior to attend the University of Tennessee.
Newsom, a former baseball player for the Halls High
School Red Devils, graduated in 2002. He was interred at Woodhaven
Memorial Gardens. A little-league baseball tournament in Newsom's
honor was held at the Halls Community Park in 2008 and 2009. A
memorial scholarship is given annually to a graduating Halls High
According to news reports, Christian
and Newsom had gone on a date at a local restaurant on Saturday,
January 6, 2007, but did not return home. During their night out, the
couple were hijacked, bound and blindfolded by three males, and "taken
back to Lemaricus Devall 'Slim' Davidson's rented house on Chipman
Christian's parents found her abandoned Toyota 4-Runner
two blocks away from the Chipman Street house the following Monday
with the help of her mobile phone provider. An envelope recovered from
the vehicle yielded fingerprint evidence that led police to Lemaricus
Davidson and 2316 Chipman Street. When police went to the address on
Tuesday, January 9, they found the home unoccupied and Christian's
body in a trash can in the kitchen.
According to the testimony of the Knox County
Acting Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan at the
subsequent trial of Eric Boyd, Newsom was repeatedly sodomized with an
object and then blindfolded, gagged, arms and feet bound and his head
covered. Barefoot, he was either led or dragged outside the house to a
set of nearby railroad tracks. He was shot in the back of the head,
the neck, and the back, and his body then set on fire.
Channon's death came only after hours of sexual
torture, medical examiner Mileusnic-Polchan testified. Channon
suffered horrific injuries to her vagina, anus and mouth. She was not
only raped but savaged with "an object," possibly a broken chair leg,
the doctor testified. She was beaten in the head. Some type of
chemical was poured down her throat, and her body, including her
bleeding and battered genital area, likely scrubbed with the same
solution - all while Channon was alive, the forensic expert said. She
was then "hog-tied," with curtains and strips of bedding, her face
covered tightly with a small trash bag and her body stashed inside
five large trash bags before being placed inside a large trash can and
covered with sheets. Channon died slowly, suffocating, the medical
Suspects and indictments
The four indicted were:
George Geovonni "Detroit" Thomas, 24,
faced a total of 46 charges. Thomas was indicted on 16 counts of
felony murder growing out of the rape, robbery, kidnapping, and
theft of Christian and Newsom, 2 counts of premeditated murder, 2
counts of especially aggravated robbery, 4 counts of especially
aggravated kidnapping, 20 counts of aggravated rape, and 2 counts of
Letalvis "Rome" Cobbins, 24, (b. December
20, 1982) faced the same 46 charges as Thomas. He has also been
charged with assaulting a correctional officer while incarcerated
pending trial. Previously in 2003, Cobbins was convicted of third-degree
attempted robbery in New York state. He and Davidson are brothers.
Cobbins was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of
Lemaricus Devall "Slim" Davidson, 25, (b.
June 13, 1981) faced the same 46 charges as Thomas. Previously
Davidson had just completed serving a five-year sentence in
Tennessee on a previous felony conviction for carjacking and
aggravated robbery on August 5, 2006.
Vanessa Coleman, 18, was arrested by the
Lebanon Police Department in Lebanon, Kentucky. She faces 40
Tennessee state charges. Coleman was indicted on 12 counts of felony
murder growing out of the rape, robbery, kidnapping, and theft of
Christian and Newsom, 1 count of premeditated murder (of Christian
only), 1 count of especially aggravated robbery (of Newsom only), 4
counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, 20 counts of aggravated
rape, and 2 counts of theft. She was convicted and sentenced to 53
years in prison on July 30, 2010.
In each indictment, the large number of rape counts
were included to provide a range of options for prosecutors, not to
reflect the number of rapes which actually occurred.
Eric DeWayne "E" Boyd, 34, was arrested in
connection with the fatal carjacking, though not indicted by the
Knox County grand jury. Boyd faced federal charges in United States
district court as an accessory after the fact for helping the
suspects evade the police. Later, Boyd was also accused by Thomas
and Cobbins of rape and murder, and a search warrant was obtained
for his DNA. The accusations by Thomas and Cobbins did not result in
state charges against Boyd, but he is serving 18 years in federal
prison on his conviction as an accessory to the carjacking.
The four suspects indicted in Knox County were
originally scheduled to be tried separately, at trials scheduled
between May and August 2008. However, the trial date for the subjects
indicted in Knox County was moved back to 2009 in February 2008. In an
apparent attempt to force the prosecution to try the case with the
least forensic evidence first, the attorneys for Thomas filed a motion
for a speedy trial, arguing there was no forensic link between their
client and the crime scene. Thomas was granted the motion and was
scheduled to go on trial on August 11. Judge Baumgartner ruled that
Thomas' phone calls made from the jailhouse to his acquaintances were
admissible as evidence.
District Attorney Randy Nichols announced that the
state would seek the death penalty for both Cobbins (the first to go
to trial) and Coleman if convicted. Davidson was also indicted for a
second robbery which was committed after the murders. The publicity
against the accused led the defense to argue that a change of venue
was required in order to ensure a fair trial. However, the state
argued that an impartial jury could be found during voir dire,
and the presiding judge subsequently denied the motion as "premature".
On April 16, 2008, Eric Boyd was
found guilty in Federal court of being an accessory to a fatal
carjacking and for failing to report the location of a known fugitive.
Boyd's was the first case to go to trial, and he was the only suspect
not charged with murder. He was sentenced to the maximum of 18 years
in Federal prison. He is currently incarcerated at Beckley FCI.
On August 25, 2009, Letalvis D. Cobbins was found
guilty of the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.
Cobbins faced the possibility of the death penalty because he was
convicted of first degree felony murder in the murder of Christian. He
was found guilty of facilitation of murder for Newsom but he was
acquitted of Newsom's rape. The jurors worked about 10 hours Monday
and on Tuesday morning before reaching a verdict. They never asked
Judge Richard Baumgartner any questions during their deliberations. On
August 26, Cobbins was sentenced to life without parole.
On October 28, 2009, Lemaricus Devall Davidson was
found guilty on all counts. He was found not guilty on three counts of
the aggravated rape of Christopher Newsom but was found guilty of the
lesser included charges of facilitation of rape. The sentencing
hearing began on October 29, 2009 at 9am EST. The sentence hearing
ended the next day October 30, 2009 at approx 3pm EST when a jury,
after deliberating approx 3 hours, sentenced Lemaricus Davidson to
death on 4 of the conviction counts.
On December 8, 2009, George Thomas was found guilty
on all counts, including the ones the other defendants were acquitted
of despite his case being based solely on circumstantial evidence and
testimony. The sentencing hearing began December 8th, 2009 and ended
on December 10th, 2009 at approx 10:45 am EST when the jury, after
approx 3 hours of deliberation, returned a sentence of life in prison
without the possibility of parole on each of the 4 capital convictions.
The convictions of Boyd, Cobbins, Davidson and
Thomas left Vanessa Coleman as the last defendant to face trial.
Coleman's case is complicated by the fact that, while she was granted
immunity by federal authorities for testimony in the federal case on
the car-jacking, the state courts have ruled that the federal grant of
immunity does not extend to the state charges on murder and rape. On
May 13, 2010, Coleman was acquitted of first degree murder but found
guilty on lesser charges. On July 30, 2010, she was sentenced to 53
years behind bars.
Reaction and accusations of racism
The national news media was criticized for
allegedly ignoring the story because the victims were white and the
suspects black. This criticism was also fueled by erroneous early
reports of dismemberment and mutilations. Most of the original reports
with misinformation (reported from a federal deputy US Marshal after
the suspects' arrest in Kentucky) were later denied by the District
The president of Criminal Justice Journalists, an
association of crime, court and prison writers, editors and producers,
said, "I can't say that this one would have had any more coverage if
five whites had been accused of doing these things to two blacks,
absent a blatant racial motive... as bad as this crime is, the
apparent absence of any interest group involvement or any other 'angle'
might also explain the lack of coverage." Police Chief Sterling Owen
IV said that there is no indication the crimes were racially motivated
and that the murders and assault "appears to have been a random
violent act." "There is absolutely no proof of a hate crime," said
John Gill, special counsel to Knox County District Atty. Randy Nichols.
"We know from our investigation that the people charged in this case
were friends with white people, socialized with white people, dated
white people. So not only is there no evidence of any racial animus,
there's evidence to the contrary."
Some commentators continued to disagree, claiming
that such a crime would include a motive of racial hatred.
Conservative political commentator Michelle Malkin repeated this
accusation on her blog and on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor program.
Prior to the DA's statement, Newsom's mother sympathized with the "hate
crime" position stating, "It may have started out as a carjacking, but
what it developed into was blacks hating whites." Christian's father (addressing
those whom he believes used his daughter's death to further their own
agenda) appeared ambivalent, stating "[the crime] ain't about you."
The case also attracted the attention of white
supremacists. On May 27, 2007, around 30 white supremacists led by
Alex Linder rallied in downtown Knoxville in protest of the murders.
They were met by a larger number of counter-protestors, many dressed
as clowns (parodying the Ku Klux Klan).
After the protest, syndicated columnist Leonard
Pitts dismissed claims that the crime was underreported, citing a 2001
report that found "Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in news
media as victims of crime and significantly overrepresented as
perpetrators." Pitts added that he was "unkindly disposed toward the
crackpots, incendiaries and flat-out racists who have chosen this
tragedy upon which to take an obscene and ludicrous stand" and that
they and any other white Americans who felt victimized by the
perceived under reporting could "cry me a river."
The house at 2316 Chipman Street was bought by a
nearby business and razed in October 2008; the new owners of the lot
planned to build a simple memorial.
An October 16, 2009 article in The Daily Mail
stated, "Ironically, the case has now generated more publicity
surrounding the furore over whether or not political correctness was
behind the US media’s decision to largely ignore the story than it did
for the murders themselves." The same article quoted commentator
Michelle Malkin as saying, "This case – an attractive white couple
murdered by five black thugs – doesn’t fit any political agenda. It’s
not a useful crime. Reverse the races and just imagine how the
national media would cover the story of a young black couple murdered
by five white assailants."
4 death sentences for LeMaricus Davidson in
October 30, 2009
KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A loud
gasp was uttered in the courtroom Friday when the first death
penalty sentence was read by the jury foreman as LeMaricus Devall
Davidson was given four death penalty sentences for the murders of
Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.
The jurors unanimously found
Davidson, 28, should receive the death penalty on the four called
capital charges. Those are for the two first degree felony murder
charges and the two premeditated first degree murders of Channon
Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, in January 2007.
The jury got the case at 10:24
a.m. and reached a decision just before 2:30 p.m.
Jurors found a long list of
aggravating factors, including the torture of the victims and their
ability to identify the defendant, outweighed all mitigating
circumstances brought by the defense.
After the sentences were read,
Judge Richard Baumgartner said to Davidson, "The state imposes the penalty
of death by lethal injection. May you find peace with your maker."
Davidson was found guilty
Wednesday of all the murder charges of Channon Christian and her
boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, in January 2007.
Prosecutors sought called
members of the victims' families to the stand Thursday to give their
impact statements as they sought the death penalty.
However, the defense had hoped he would
receive life in prison (with the possibility of parole after 51 years),
or life in prison without parole instead.
Davidson was also found guilty
of especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping,
aggravated rape and theft in this case.
The jury found Davidson guilty
of the lesser charge of facilitating Newsom's rapes, rather than
raping Newsom himself.
Davidson was found guilty of
He's now the 90th person sent to
Tennessee's death row, but he's only the second to be put there with
four death sentences.
The jury was given extra
security to leave the court Friday afternoon.
Victims' families thank jury
"The Christians and the Newsoms
got justice today," said Channon Christian's mother, Deena, as the
families' press conference started.
"I finally get to go see her (my
daughter) and tell her, one down," said Channon's father, Gary,
referring to a promise he made to his daughter to get justice for her
kidnapping, torture and murder.
Chris Newsom's father, Hugh,
said the jury, which is from Knox County, is "the pillars of our
community" and a round of applause by the families followed.
When asked what they thought of
Davidson's attorneys already seeking a mistrial, Deena said, "He's
been crying since day one. Let him cry."
"I respect this court. I respect
this jury, but I do not have to respect a couple of individuals
because the court made them do something," Gary said, referring to
defense attorneys David Eldridge and Doug Trant, "for attacking their
son (as he looked at the Newsoms) and our daughter."
"There is no vindication in this,"
Hugh Newsom said Davidson "not
one time" showed remorse for his actions during the trial.
Gary Christian asked the "thousands
and thousands of people praying for them to pray for the jury. I know
it was hard for them to do."
The death penalty "just makes it
easier to go on," Deena said. "This made a dent in it," Gary added.
"We got justice despite the
system," Deena said.
Hugh Newsom said after the other
trials in this case was over, he wants to sit down with all the media
and set the record straight on the reprimand they received during the
testimony phase of this trial for an exchange with a defense attorney.
Hugh said they "weren't the
instigators." Gary Christian said with a laugh that he didn't know if
he would wait that long."
State's closing: No excuses for Davidson's actions
Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald told
the jury Friday morning that Davidson had a tough life, but "it does
not excuse what he did. Life is about opportunities and decisions you
"So what if he had a bad
childhood, a crack addicted mother? You still have choices,"
Fitzgerald said. "Just obey the rules, Mr. Davidson," she says, "but
he doesn't. He won't."
Davidson had an opportunity at
age 16 to turn his life around in the care of a loving foster family.
His foster parents don't abandon
him, even in prison, Fitzgerald told the jury. "What does he do after
six years in prison for aggravated robbery? "He comes to Knoxville to
At the end, Chris Newsom had
only his life left, but "he (Davidson)took that," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said also Christian
gave Davidson some of her trust when she told him she wanted to live.
"She didn't want to die."
Then Fitzgerald said, "He didn't
have to kill her."
She also said at the end of
their lives, all Newsom and Christian had was that they could identify
"A rough early life does not
excuse what you do at 26 when you take the lives of two young kids,"
Defense's closing: Please spare his life
Defense attorney Doug Trant
began his closing argument by saying, Davidson had a horrible
childhood, "and it's not an excuse, but an explanation" on how he got
"Why would you sentence him to
life without parole?" Trant asked. He pointed to the Rudd family, took
Davidson in as their foster son. "Consider that heavily."
Trant reminded the jury of Dr.
Peter Brown's statement Thursday in his testimony. "He (Davidson)
knows right from wrong when he's sober" and not on a cocktail of drugs.
Trant told the jury he knows
they don't want to make the decision about Davidson's sentence, "but
it has to be done."
"I'm going to ask you to spare
his life," Trant said. "Please, I'm begging you to do the right thing."
"Do you think this will be the
last death penalty in this case," one of the media asked. "We hope so,
but we don't know," Deena said.
State's rebuttal closing: Crimes overwhelm all other factors
Prosecutor Leland Price told the
jury Davidson could have used his Aunt Rose as inspiration "but he
"Use your common sense. Davidson
had people who tried to help him," Price said, referring to the Rudd
family. "He had every opportunity in the world."
"The aggravating circumstances
are overwhelming beyond the shadow of a doubt," Price said.
Think of the suffering those
kids went through, Price said. "You know the physical suffering. Think
about the mental anguish."
"Heinous, atrocious and cruel
doesn't begin to describe what they went through," Price said.
"Why were they killed," Price
asked? "They knew too much."
Price said Newsom's family
didn't get to have funeral with an open casket because his body was so
"Why burn Newsom's body? Why did
they mutilate his body?" Price asked. "They left him there for the
whole world to see along those railroad tracks."
"These weren't just murders,"
Price said. "These crimes cry out for the maximum penalty. Give us