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One Night in Hell

“Our final goodbye to Chris…we embraced him in his body bag. We were not allowed to see him,” Hugh Newsom, Chris’s father, said. “At that particular time, Mary and I both promised we would not stop until Eric Boyd was prosecuted for killing him.” 

Chris Newsom’s dad

As a man, I seldom reveal a fraction of vulnerability and the harder I’m pushed to do so, the less of it I feel. I will violently protect the ones I love. Humiliation and weakness are bitter pills to swallow for many real men like myself.

I look at this vulgar event as a father whose job it is to protect my children with every ounce of breath available, I can’t imagine reliving thru my childs sadistic demise, vividly detailed in every court hearing.

One night in Hell

I still recall the first time that the haunting story of Christopher Newsom &Channon Christian entered my consciousness and challenged my belief in a higher power. The horrific ordeal that this seemingly well-adjusted and very typical young couple had been so apathetically dragged into, was just unimaginable.

This degree of unmitigated evil perpetrated onto good people as well as their loving families makes me question divine justice.

The young white couple were carjacked and taken hostage on the evening of January 6th, 2007 by two black thugs, they were bound and forcefully transported to a house on Chipman Street in East Knoxville.

When the final macabre act had concluded, a total of five wretched sub-humans would be culpable for extinguishing the life and humanity of Chris and Channon that night.

Chris Newsom and Channon Christian spent their last peaceful minutes alive enjoying one another’s company, preparing to relax and watch a movie over at a friends house.

The couple never knew how valuable those fleeting moments together were, in that parking lot outside of Washington Ridge Apartments. Channon was in the driver’s seat of her Forerunner, the door was open as she and Chris would regrettably embrace for the final time.

Their promising lives were then swiftly interrupted by the sinister arrival of two dark figures waving their menacing guns. Eric Boyd and LeMaricus Davidson had every opportunity to just forcefully commandeer the vehicle and leave  Chris and Channon in the parking lot, but they didn’t, they had other things in mind.

Had they been aware of their impending descent into sadistic violence and rape, would they have spent their last breath fighting?

Channon was tortured and violently raped for hours in that horrible hell hole on Chipman street, finally suffocating to death beneath a shroud of garbage bags. Before Channon’s slow death, the black assailants had poured bleach down her throat, hoping to destroy their DNA. Or maybe hoping to bleach it white and throw cops off the trail, not what you would call scholars.

Autopsies revealed that she was raped so violently her anus, mouth, and vagina were torn and bruised.  Channon’s father sat through several trials that would vividly recall details such as this, describing his daughters gruesome end by the hands of five soulless black murderers.

Chris did not fare much better, he was relentlessly and savagely mauled, his manhood was humiliatingly violated when one of the black men raped him. Chris was outnumbered and had no chance, his life ended when he was dragged out to the railroad tracks, sexually assaulted with an inanimate object,executed, and lit on fire like a heap of worthless trash. The official cause of death derived from multiple gun wounds, the back, the neck, and the last of which was placed in the back of his head.

Family and friends were concerned by this tragedies lack of public traction in the national media. Had this been five whites accused and convicted of torturing and killing two blacks, a national emergency would have ensued.

What makes this even more haunting for me, is to try an imagine what the hell was racing through Chris’s mind as his girl was being beaten and violated. Did he just want to desperately survive this ordeal and pick up the pieces?

If they had lived, would they ever be able to look at one another the same? The victim’s fathers must have suffered an excruciatingly difficult time trying to cope, being helpless to protect their children. Although both parents would incur deep psychological bereavement, I believe that men carry a significantly larger amount of damage in a case like this.

Alexander Vanopolis

A vee

Official Timeline

By Maggie Gregg | Posted: Wed 10:30 PM, Jul 31, 2019  | Updated: Tue 5:22 PM, Aug 13, 2019

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) — The brutal killings of a young Knoxville couple garnered national attention in 2007. More than 10 years after the deaths of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the last suspect in the case is going to trial.

A timeline of events:

2007

– Jan. 6: Christopher Newsom, 23, and Channon Christian, 21, had dinner at a local restaurant with plans to go to a friend’s home to watch a movie. They were last seen leaving an apartment complex. Authorities said they were carjacked by multiple suspects and taken to a rental home in the area of Chipman Street. Investigators said Christian was behind the wheel of the vehicle and Newsom was standing in the open door of the vehicle, kissing her, when the two were attacked at gunpoint.

After not hearing from the couple, Christian’s mother became worried and called the Newsoms to let them know she was filing a missing person’s report.

– Jan. 7: A worker found Newsom’s body near the railroad tracks between 9th and Cherry streets. He had been sexually assaulted, shot in the back of the head and set on fire.

– Jan. 8: Christian’s family, while helping police search, found her vehicle on Glider Avenue, near Chipman Street. The vehicle was searched, leading to the discovery of fingerprints belonging to a suspect investigators identified as Lemaricus Davidson. Investigators discovered Davidson owned a rental property on Chipman Street.

– Jan. 9: Christian’s body was found in a trash can at Davidson’s rental property located at 2316 Chipman St., two blocks away from where the vehicle was found. Investigators said she had been raped and bleach had been sprayed into her mouth to destroy evidence. Officials said a suspect, later identified as Davidson, broke her neck. A medical examiner said Christian was wrapped in plastic bags and dumped in a trash can where she suffocated.

– Jan. 11: Authorities found two suspects, Letalvis Cobbins, brother to Davidson, and his friend George Thomas, at a home in Lebanon, Ky. Later that same day, Knoxville Police found Lemaricus Davidson at a home on Reynolds Street.

– Jan. 12: Investigators served a fourth suspect, Eric Boyd, with a federal warrant.

Five suspects were involved: Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, Vanessa Coleman (Cobbins’ girlfriend), and Eric Boyd.

– May 28: The case drew concerns that the crimes were racially motivated, in spite of the fact that investigators said the violent killings were random. On May 28, a protest organized by white supremacists occurred. It was met with significant opposition. Police, prosecutors and the families said that Christian and Newsom were not victims of a hate crime.

2008

– March 4: A year and three months after the murders, Knox County’s district attorney said he planned to seek the death penalty against four defendants.

– April 4: A federal jury found Eric Boyd guilty of being an accessory after the fact in connection with the case.

– Oct. 10: The home where Christian’s body was found was demolished.

2009
– July: For the first time, the victims’ families saw pictures of the crime scene on Chipman Street.

– July 21: Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner cleared the way for prosecutors to use evidence collected at the house where Channon Christian’s body was found. Three days later, a judge denied a motion to dismiss DNA samples collected at the Chipman Street home.  TOP ARTICLES1/5READ MOREOfficials searching for missing Sevier Countyteen

– Aug. 10: Judge Baumgartner ruled jurors would get to hear some of the phone calls Cobbins made to relatives following his arrest. The calls included comments he made about DNA and other evidence in the case. They also recorded him discussing his membership in a gang.

– August: Cobbins was convicted of first degree murder in the death of Christian and facilitation of murder in connection to the death of Newsom. He was sentenced to life in prison.

– Oct. 28: Davidson was convicted on counts of first degree murder and first degree felony murder. He was also found guilty of facilitation of aggravated rape. Davidson was accused of being the ringleader in the Christian-Newsom case. He was sentenced to death.

– Dec. 8: George Thomas was found guilty on all counts, including more than a dozen counts of felony murder and two counts of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

2010

– May: Coleman was convicted on charges of facilitation of the murder, kidnapping, rape and theft of Christian. She was found not guilty on charges related to Newsom’s death.

– July 30: Judge Baumgartner sentenced Coleman to 53 years in prison.

2011

– January: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed they were investigating Judge Baumgartner, but didn’t reveal why.

– Jan. 29: Judge Baumgartner’s attorney released a statement saying the judge was “in a healthcare facility receiving medical treatment.”

– Feb. 2: WVLT News spoke with Baumgartner’s wife, Vicki, at their home in East Knox County. The judge wasn’t there. At the time, she said, “I have no comment at this time except to say thanks to his supporters, and please respect our privacy.”

– Mid-February: TBI agents raided the home of convicted felon Christopher Gibson on Gap Road. Gibson pleaded guilty in 2007 in Baumgartner’s court to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Reports alleged that Baumgartner illegally obtained prescription painkiller’s from Gibson.

– Feb. 18: WVLT News spoke to witnesses who said Baumgartner regularly visited Gibson’s home.

– March 10: Baumgartner pleaded guilty to official misconduct after evidence confirmed he illegally obtained prescription painkillers, such as percoset, hydrocodone and oxycodone, according to special prosecutor Al Schmutzer. “I have a disease, and it is a serious disease,” Baumgartner told the courtroom. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood gave him a two-year suspended sentence upon completion of judicial diversion.

– Dec. 1: Judge Blackwood ordered new trials for Cobbins, Davidson, Thomas and Coleman following a two-hour description of Judge Richard Baumgartner’s alleged drug activities, citing “structural errors” in the trials.

2012
– Jan. 12: Judge Blackwood denied the state’s appeal to prevent the retrials. That same day, he denied the defense a change of venue, but said jurors would not be chosen from Knox County. He set a trial date for Cobbins on Aug. 27, Oct. 22 for Thomas and Nov. 12 for Coleman.

– May 24: The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Blackwood’s decision for new trials for Davidson, Cobbins and Thomas because it said the defendants had not known that former Judge Baumgartner’s misconduct outside the courtroom impacted their trials. The retrial for Coleman was not challenged as the state conceded Baumgartner “seemed disoriented, speech was very slow… he barely read the verdicts… He was confusing the defendants’ names.”

– June 4: The District Attorney General’s Office asked for Blackwood to recuse himself before considering whether Cobbins, Davidson and Thomas should get new trials. “The willful failure of this Court to follow the Tennessee Supreme Court’s guidance indicates this Court has lost all semblance of fairness and impartiality,” said prosecutors in the motion.

– June 6: Judge Blackwood ordered new retrials for Cobbins, Davidson and Thomas again. Blackwood pointed to Rule 25, which was cited as well in the Supreme Court decision, that allowed the successor judge, in this case Blackwood, “concludes he or she cannot perform (the duties of the original judge) because of the failure to preside at the trial or for any other reason.” Judge Blackwood added that he couldn’t act as the thirteenth juror in the Christian-Newsom case.

– June 14: Judge Blackwood said he would not quit at a hearing regarding whether or not he should step down from the Christian-Newsom case. “I intend to be captain of this ship and to run this ship,” he said.

– June 21: Judge Blackwood threw out his previous order granting new trials to Cobbins and Davidson and said he would give the state a second chance to argue Blackwood should recuse himself from the case.

– Aug. 20: Judge Blackwood announced he would not recuse himself from the case for the second time. Christian’s dad said Judge Blackwood needs to step down because he’s in it for the publicity. Gary Christian said, “That judge is on a mission. I don’t know if it’s a book or movie or what exactly he’s up to. This ain’t about his book or movie. This is about our daughter.” At this point, the Newsoms had been in courtrooms 283 times.

– Oct. 3: A state appellate court issued a temporary stay in the retrial of Cobbins, Davidson and Thomas. The stay followed an appeal by state after Judge Blackwood refused to recuse himself.

– Oct. 31: Judge Blackwood was replaced by Judge Walter Kurtz. Kurtz was ordered to oversee the cases of Cobbins, Davidson and Thomas. Judge Blackwood was still set to preside over Coleman’s trial in November. Of the four, only Coleman and Thomas received new trials.

– Nov. 20: A jury convicted Coleman on 13 of 17 counts in the murder of Christian. Like her first trial in 2007, Coleman was found not guilty for crimes connected to Newsom. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

2013

– May: Thomas was convicted on 38 charges in connection to the kidnapping, rape and murders of Christian and Newsom.

– June 4: Thomas was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 25 years. Christian’s father, Gary, told Thomas, “You taught me how to hate.”

2014

– Dec. 11: Coleman was denied parole and will not have a chance again until December 2020.

2016

– Dec. 19: The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld two death sentences against Davidson.

2018

– April 4: Boyd was indicted on first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape charges in connection to the deaths of Christian and Newsom.

2019

– June 27: Boyd appeared in court for a status hearing during which his attorneys filed a motion to hold the trial at a different venue. It was denied.

– Aug. 5: Boyd’s trial began with jury selection. The jurors include four white men, one black woman, one black man, one Hispanic woman, five white women and four alternates that include three white men and one white woman. Opening statements in the trial were set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

– Aug. 6: The trial began with opening statements.

– Aug. 7: Convicted killer George Thomas began his testimony.

– Aug. 8: Thomas was cross examined. Mary Newsom, Deena Newsom and Daphne Sutton, Lemaricus Davidson’s ex-girlfriend, took the stand.

– Aug. 12: Closing arguments were made, and the jury deliberated before being sent home for the day.

– Aug. 13: After more than a week of trial, the jury found Boyd guilty on all counts.

Copyright 2019 WVLT News. All rights reserved.

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