Horror of Christian/Newsom killings in focus: What happened on
Six years and seven trials later, one question remains? What
happened on Chipman Street?
In one of Knoxville's most horrific crimes, Channon Christian,
21, and boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23, were carjacked,
kidnapped, raped and slain in January 2007. Five suspects were
identified. One was tried federally as an accessory. Four others
were tried in Knox County Criminal Court.
A drug scandal involving the judge in those state court
proceedings would upend the convictions against two of those
suspects. New trials were held, the most recent of which
occurred last week.
More:Graphic details emerge in Christian-Newsom killings
Through it all, details of the horrors this young couple
suffered have eked out. But with each suspect pointing the
finger of blame at the other and jurors limited by law in what
they are allowed to know, the real story of what happened when
the couple were taken hostage and ultimately slain has proved
just as elusive as the court cases convoluted.
The News Sentinel has covered this case since its beginning.
With the aid of interviews, trial coverage and transcripts of
each defendant's statement to authorities, the newspaper can now
offer up a snapshot of not only what happened to these two
innocents but exactly who did what to them.
Setting the stage
Chipman Street resident Lemaricus Davidson was broke and angry.
His girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, had left him. He had no car and
no way to earn money.
"Selling dope, that's what I do," Davidson would later tell law
Law enforcers knew, however, that Davidson was not simply a drug
dealer. He was on parole for carjacking and, in the days leading
up to the abduction of Christian and Newsom, was suspected in a
series of robberies.
In the days before the couple's abduction, Davidson's brother
Letalvis Cobbins came to Knoxville from Kentucky to stay with
him. He brought along friend George Thomas and girlfriend
None of the three had jobs, money or vehicles. Cobbins and
Thomas were homeless. Coleman had a salt-of-the-earth family to
turn to for help but chose not to.
Davidson grew increasingly angry over what he viewed as the
freeloading of his brother and his guests. He turned that anger
on Sutton. She left him on Jan. 5, 2007.
A day later, Davidson had concocted a plan to solve all his
woes. He, with help from Cobbins and a buddy, Eric Boyd, would
carjack someone. Cobbins insisted that he wasn't happy with the
"Me and my brother got to arguing because he said he was going
to do some crazy (expletive)," Cobbins said in an interview with
law enforcement. "He like, man, I'm fixing to go carjack
somebody, man, try and get me some money."
Savaging the victims
Christian and Newsom disappeared Jan. 6, 2007, from the
Washington Ridge apartment complex where Christian's best friend
Hours later, Newsom's body was found alongside railroad tracks
near Chipman Street in East Knoxville. He had been raped with an
object and then shot three times. The final shot was delivered
He had been gagged with a sock stuffed in his mouth. His ankles
were bound with his own belt. His hands were secured behind his
back. His face was wrapped in a bandanna. His head was covered
with a sweatshirt tied around his neck with shoestrings.
More:Timeline of key events in Christian Newsom killings
Forensic evidence showed that he had been raped in the final
hours of his life. He was forced to walk barefoot to the
railroad tracks that ran parallel to Chipman Street and shot in
the neck and back. As Newsom lay paralyzed on the ground, the
muzzle of a .22-caliber gun was placed against his covered head
and fired. His body would later be wrapped up in a comforter,
doused in gasoline and set afire.
Christian, meanwhile, was tied up inside the Chipman Street
house of Davidson, a stranger to her. She was repeatedly raped
orally, vaginally and rectally. At some point, she was savagely
attacked in her genital region, either kicked or beaten with an
She suffered two blows to the head and was dragged into the
carpeted living room of Davidson's Chipman Street home. Bleach
was sprayed down her throat, an apparent effort to destroy DNA
She was hogtied with strips of fabric from a bedding set. Still
alive, her body was encased in black garbage bags and her head
wrapped in a white plastic grocery bag. Christian was then
stuffed inside a trash can and left to die, slowly suffocating.
Sneaking a preview
Suspect Boyd has long denied any role in the couple's abduction.
With no forensic proof tying him to the crimes, authorities were
left to prosecute him for hiding out Davidson after the
slayings. He is serving an 18-year federal prison sentence as a
But his statement to authorities provides striking details of
the carjacking ? details he insisted came from Davidson, not his
Christian was angry with Newsom because he had tarried in
picking her up for the birthday party of a friend. As she sat in
the front seat of her Toyota 4-Runner parked outside, Newsom
sought to set things right, hugging and kissing her as he stood
just outside the driver's side door.
The couple never saw Boyd cruise into the parking lot at
Washington Ridge with passengers Davidson and Cobbins. An armed
Boyd and Davidson jumped from the car, leaving Cobbins behind.
At that point, the pair intended only to rob Christian and
Newsom of the SUV. But as they approached the couple, guns
drawn, headlights from another vehicle spooked them. They pushed
the couple into the SUV.
Testimony has shown that Christian and Newsom were bound in the
SUV with whatever cords the assailants could find. Newsom was
forced facedown in the vehicle. A bound Christian was dumped
onto his back.
With Davidson behind the wheel of Christian's SUV and Cobbins
trailing behind in a car Boyd had borrowed from his cousin, the
crew headed back to Davidson's Chipman Street home.
There was no doubt then that the couple would die.
"Two white people, white kids, this (expletive) fixing to get
crazy, man, you know what I mean?" Cobbins said.
Davidson and his cohorts are black, the victims white. Racial
differences have never been suggested as a motivator for what
authorities view as a random carjacking.
Spilling the beans
Back at Davidson's Chipman Street house with their bound and
blindfolded victims in tow, an argument broke out among
Davidson, Boyd, Cobbins, Thomas and Coleman. Thomas and Davidson
barely knew each other and neither liked the other.
"Lemaricus told (Thomas) that he was gonna need him to do
something so he could trust him," Coleman told law enforcers.
The suspects admit that they curried Christian's cooperation by
promising her she would be let go if she went along with their
demands. She even called home ? at gunpoint ? to create a false
alibi to buy the suspects time in their murderous plans.
None of the suspects concede involvement in Newsom's death. But
trial testimony, statements and forensic evidence suggest that
Davidson, Cobbins, Boyd and Thomas forced Newsom into the rear
cargo compartment of the SUV, leaving Coleman behind with
It's not clear if Newsom was raped before leaving Chipman
Street. Boyd, who had male pornography cached on his phone, has
long been suspected but never charged with raping Newsom.
Forensic proof and suspect statements indicate that Davidson
forced Thomas to fire the first shot at Newsom, striking him in
the neck. As he fell forward, another shot struck him in the
back and then Davidson delivered the kill shot to his head.
Once back at Chipman Street, Boyd left. Davidson and Thomas
stripped off their bloody clothes to be washed. At some point,
the pair gathered up a comforter and a gas can and left,
presumably to burn Newsom's body.
Meanwhile, Cobbins went into his brother's bedroom, where
Christian was tied up.
"I was pissed off," Coleman said in a statement.
Cobbins would later tell a jury that he promised Christian she
would go free if she agreed to oral sex. Forensic proof showed
that Christian was orally raped with such force a membrane in
her mouth severed.
DNA evidence shows that Davidson raped Christian both vaginally
But it is Coleman who authorities suspect delivered brutal blows
to Christian's vaginal region, the force of which caused a
massive pooling of blood.
At some point, Christian was dragged into the living room,
bleach sprayed in her throat.
"She looked terrified," Cobbins told law enforcers.
"They made me go in the back bedroom," Coleman recalled. "When I
come back into the kitchen, I seen them tying her up in the
More:Time no cure for pain in torture slayings of Channon
Christian and Christopher Newsom
Fingerprint evidence shows that it was Davidson and Cobbins who
wrapped Christian in trash bags. She was then stuffed alive
inside a trash can in the kitchen of the Chipman Street house.
Fight not over
With Thomas convicted for a second time on Friday and a jury
delivering up a sentence of life with the possibility of parole,
the case finally seems over, save a few rote hearings and
But Christian's father, Gary Christian, said Friday that his
fight is not over.
"The business at hand is done," he said of the trials. "The work
has just changed. We've got some laws that will go up to get
some things changed in this horrible excuse for a justice
system. It's all for the criminals and nothing for the victims."
Timeline: Key events in Christian-Newsom case
Storify: Retrials in Channon Christian Christopher Newsom case
April 9, 2008 Graphic details emerge in Christian-Newsom killings
April 14, 2008 Medical examiner begins graphic description of
July 18, 2009 Transcript: Davidson says he told Christian he
would 'make sure she got out'