Defense: Cobbins 'a coward' but not a killer

Defense: Cobbins 'a coward' but not a killer

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Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins
Channon Christian's parents, Deena and Gary, listen to the reading of the charges. Channon Christian's parents, Deena and Gary, listen to the reading of the charges.
Defense attorney Scott Green told jurors they shouldn't like Cobbins, who he called "a coward." Defense attorney Scott Green told jurors they shouldn't like Cobbins, who he called "a coward."
Christian's best friend, Kara Sowards, testified that on the night of the carjacking, Christian waited for an hour alone at Sowards' apartment for Newsom. Christian said she was upset she didn't leave with Sowards for the party. Christian's best friend, Kara Sowards, testified that on the night of the carjacking, Christian waited for an hour alone at Sowards' apartment for Newsom. Christian said she was upset she didn't leave with Sowards for the party.
When asked how he knew they'd found Channon's SUV, Gary Christian testified that "I knew it in my heart." He said a moment later, "You could tell it had been wiped down." When asked how he knew they'd found Channon's SUV, Gary Christian testified that "I knew it in my heart." He said a moment later, "You could tell it had been wiped down."

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Defense attorney Scott Green told jurors Monday morning Letalvis Cobbins was "a coward" who failed to stop the carjacking, rapes and murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in 2007.

"[Cobbins is] guilty of rape, make no bones about it. But he's not guilty of murder," Green said in his opening statement in the trial of Cobbins, the first of four suspects accused in the double murder.

The three other suspects charged in the couple's killings are Lemaricus Duvall Davidson (Cobbins' half brother), George Giovanni Thomas and Vanessa Coleman.

All four defendants could face the death penalty if they're convicted.

Before the prosecuting and defense attorneys presented their opening statements, the charges against Cobbins were read for 12 offenses. 

Speaking for Cobbins, Green said the defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges of rape and facilitation of kidnapping, but not guilty to the other charges.

Later, during his opening statement, Green said the guilty pleas were Cobbins' way of "manning up" to do what is right.

Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald told the court that railroad tracks and a trash can were the final resting places for Channon and Chris. She said Cobbins was one of the people responsible for their brutal attack and murder, calling him "a liar, a thief, a rapist and a killer."


State's opening: Cobbins' sperm found on victims

Fitzgerald described how the couple disappeared while on a date, and the search and investigation that followed.

Newsom's body was found burned and bound along a set of railroad tracks in East Knoxville, she said. The medical examiner's report show Newsom had been repeatedly raped, beaten and shot.

Christian's body showed signs she'd been repeatedly raped, beaten, cleaner was poured down her throat and she suffocated in that trash can, according to the medical examiner. She was found in a house at 2136 Chipman Street, near the railroad tracks.

Cobbins told investigators different versions of what happened to the couple, ADA Fitzgerald said.

Sperm from Cobbins was found in Christian's mouth and on her clothes, Fitzgerald said, although he had denied being at the scene.


Defense's opening: Cobbins is a coward

Defense attorney Scott Green told jurors they shouldn't like Cobbins, who he called "a coward."

He claimed Cobbins didn't know in advance that Christian and Newsom would wind up carjacked.

Green said Eric Boyd, who was convicted and sentenced as an accessory in the case is actually responsible for what happened to Newsom. He described Boyd and Davidson as friends and detailed their past felony convictions.

Cobbins had no property from either victim, Green told the court. However, Davidson did.

Green said Cobbins told family members in phone calls from jail that Davidson claimed he knew Christian and that's why his DNA was found in her. Cobbins also said that was "bull."


Chris Newsom's mother "We prayed a lot"

The Christian and Newsom families were in court Monday, as they have been for all the hearings in this case.

Chris Newsom's mother, Mary, was called as the state's first witness when testimony began.

She identified several items that were presented as evidence, including a pair of Nike shoes and two baseball caps, as belonging to her son.

She also testified that she and his father weren't alarmed at first when Chris didn't come home from the party he was supposed to go to with Christian. She said her son came and went from their home when he wanted.

Mary Newsom told jurors that after they received a call from Channon's mother, Deena, saying her daughter was missing they became concerned. They began looking for him and "prayed a lot."


Newsom's friend helped with search for victims


Newsom's best friend, Josh Anderson, testified Monday afternoon about helping in the search that lead to the discovery of Christian's Toyota 4-Runner. It was parked on Chipman Street, a few blocks from the house where her body was found.

Anderson said cell phone tracking helped them find the SUV.


Christian's friend: repeated calls from party went unanswered

Christian's best friend, Kara Sowards, testified that on the night of the carjacking, Christian waited for an hour alone at Sowards' apartment for Newsom. Christian said she was upset she didn't leave with Sowards for the party.

Sowards said people at the party called Christian and Newsom several times when they never showed, thinking to give them a hard time.

Sowards said on Sunday, she tried calling Christian again, but no luck. Friends hadn't been able to reach Newsom either.

Sowards testified that she helped in the search for Christian's SUV and when they found it, some stickers had been moved.

When Sowards identified the sweater she last saw Christian wearing, Christian's mother bowed her head and her father's face looked pained. 


Christian's father: daughter wasn't under duress in last call

Channon Christian's father, Gary, testified that she called about 12:30 the night of her disappearance and said she and Newsom would finish watching a movie, then she'd come straight home.

Gary told the court he knew his daughter and there was no way she was "under duress" when she made that call because she was too calm.

Gary testified that by mid-afternoon Sunday, he and his wife agreed their daughter was missing, reported her missing to the sheriff's office and organized a search.

When asked how he knew they'd found Channon's SUV, Gary testified that "I knew it in my heart." He said a moment later, "You could tell it had been wiped down."

Gary told the court several items were missing from Channon's SUV including stickers and clothes she had planned to donate to Goodwill.

He also identified a pair blue jeans Channon regularly wore, saying he had "ironed those jeans 500 times." Gary put his hands to his eyes and took a moment to compose himself afterward.


Worker next door thought 4-Runner was stolen

Xavier Jenkins, an employee of Waste Connections, next door to the Chipman Street house, testified that he saw Christian's SUV at 12:30 a.m. at the house with four people in it.

Jenkins said they gave him the "mug face" and he gave them one back, not wanting to turn his back on them. He said he felt they wanted to know who he was. At the time, he was waiting to get into work where he'd just started.

Jenkins told the court he had a funny feeling about the SUV and thought later it might have been stolen.

He also testified that he heard a popping noise near the railroad tracks where Newsom's body was found later.


Norfolk Southern worker found nude, badly burned body

A Norfolk Southern employee, J. D. Ford, testified that he stopped his train after noticing a body near the Chipman Street tracks.

It turned out to be Chris Newsom. Ford described the body as nude and badly burned.

There was a gasp in the jury as a photo was shown of the body and Newsom's mother, Mary, wept.


State's case moves quickly, court adjourns early

Court ended around 4:30 p.m. Monday when the state said it's out of scheduled witnesses for the day and the case is moving faster than prosecutors had expected.

Judge Richard Baumgartner reminded the jurors they can't watch local newscasts due to coverage of the trial.


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