Vanessa Coleman is again in court. This time, her battery of defense attorneys is portraying her as an innocent victim who did not contribute to the torture or deaths of Shannon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Prosecuton witnesses pointed out that she could have called 911 or freed the victims while she was in the Chipman Street home with the victims and the four others charged in the crimes were outside in the victim’s vehicle.
Coleman was convicted of facilitating the crimes and sentenced to 53 years in prison. After the judge who heard the case, RIchard Baumgartner, was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to misconduct and disbarred, Coleman won a new trial.
Channon Gail Christian, 21, and Hugh Christopher Newsom, Jr., 23, were carjacked, raped, tortured and murdered after being kidnapped early Jan. 7, 2007. Five suspects, Letalvis D. Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, Eric Dewayne Boyd, Vanessa Coleman and George Thomas were arrested and charged in the case. SInce all of the suspects are black, public speculation arose that the acs were racial motived. The grand jury indicted four of the suspects on counts of capital murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape and theft. A fifth was indicted on the federal level.
Letalvis D. Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, and George Thomas had multiple prior felony convictions. 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. Eric Dewayne Boyd has been convicted of federal charges as accessory after the fact to carjacking and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The state convictions of Letalvis D. Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, and George Thomas were also set aside because of misconduct by the presiding judge., who has since been disbarred; retrials pending appeals in all except the Coleman case had slated for the summer and fall of 2012, until in May 2012 the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated the motion for new trials.
Christian and Newsom were leaving an apartment together to go to a friend’s party when they were abducted from the apartment complex parking lot.
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 house unoccupied and Christian’s body in a bin 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 dragged outside the house to a set of nearby railroad tracks. He was shot in the back of his head, neck and back and his body was then set on fire.
According to the testimony of the medical examiner, Channon’s death came after hours of torture, having suffered injuries to her vagina, anus and mouth. She was raped with an unidentified object and beaten in the head. It was also reported that her body was scrubbed with bleach which was also poured down her throat, in an attempt by her attackers to remove DNA evidence, while Channon was still alive. She was then bound with curtains and strips of bedding, her face covered with a bin liner and her body stashed within five large bin bags, before being placed inside a residential waste disposal unit and covered with sheets. The medical examiner said there was evidence that Channon slowly suffocated to death.
By Dan Davis