Police in Cobbins trial: fingerprints led them to suspects

Police in Cobbins trial: fingerprints led them to suspects

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Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins
Crime evidence technician Daniel Crenshaw testified that five fingerprints found on trash bags Christian's body was found in matched Lemaricus Davidson. Crime evidence technician Daniel Crenshaw testified that five fingerprints found on trash bags Christian's body was found in matched Lemaricus Davidson.
The video also showed the trash can in the kitchen that had Channon Christian's body in it. The video also showed the trash can in the kitchen that had Channon Christian's body in it.
Stacey Lawson testified that Letalvis Cobbins told her his brother, Lemaricus Davidson, had gone crazy and killed two people. Stacey Lawson testified that Letalvis Cobbins told her his brother, Lemaricus Davidson, had gone crazy and killed two people.
Sutton broke down in tears as she admitted to learning the clothes Davidson gave her were Channon Christian's. Sutton broke down in tears as she admitted to learning the clothes Davidson gave her were Channon Christian's.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- A fingerprint expert with the Knoxville Police Department testified Tuesday on the big break in the case against Letalvis Cobbins and three others, prints that matched theirs.

However, it was defense attorney Scott Green who pointed out that after investigators had recovered Newsom's body, Christian's stolen SUV and identified the suspects, it took another day to find Christian's body.

Cobbins is the first to be tried for the carjacking, rapes and murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in 2007.

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.

Much of the defense questioning Tuesday revolved around the actions of Davidson, including accusations of the murders, having a gun and drug dealing.

It continues the strategy attorney Scott Green discussed in his opening statement, that Cobbins was intimidated by his brother into being involved in the slayings.

TBI analyzes evidence from Newsom's body

One of the first witnesses called to the stand was Laura Hodge, a lab technician and gunshot residue expert for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Hodge testified that she analyzed fire debris and found evidence of gasoline at the scene where Newsom's body was found along a set of railroad tracks in East Knoxville.

Police get break: suspects' fingerprints on evidence

Crime evidence technician Daniel Crenshaw, who works for the Knoxville Police Department, took the stand soon after.

Crenshaw isn't an officer. He's a fingerprint identification expert who said he's identified more than 10,000 fingerprints.

He testified about photographing and collecting fingerprint evidence at the scene where Newsom's body was found and from Christian's Toyota 4Runner, which was parked nearby on Chipman Street.

Crenshaw said he first checked for fingerprints in the 4Runner, but it was wiped clean. However, he realized there was a bank envelope investigators hadn't checked.

After his colleagues didn't check the envelope right away, Crenshaw said he processed it himself and found a print that matched Lemaricus Davidson's right thumb.

Crenshaw testified that he checked Davidson's address and it was 2316 Chipman Street, the home where Christian's body was later found.

He testified that five fingerprints found on trash bags around Christian's body matched Davidson's.

Crenshaw also testified that Cobbins' prints were on two photos in the house.

Crenshaw said once he made the fingerprint ID of Davidson it still wasn't official because by rule, a second expert needs to verify it.

Once Crenshaw made the first ID, it took another day before Christian's body was found.

During the lag time, Crenshaw testified that he drove by the Chipman Street home, but only saw some lights.

During the defense's cross examination, attorney Scott Green said although investigators had evidence and could've gone to the Chipman Street house at 2:00 a.m. Monday, they didn't. Christian's body was found Tuesday afternoon.

This was followed by a quick shouting match between Green and Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price.

Police: body found, suspect arrested

The state next called Keith Debow, with the police department's Special Ops Unit. He described finding Christian's body at the Chipman Street home and helping with the search.

Debow testified that the garbage bags around Christian's body weren't what caught his attention. A photo shows that a small bit of Christian's arm was visible in the trash can that contained her body.

Debow said, "I reached to touch her (Christian) but there was no sign of life."

Debow also described the capture of Davidson later at another house. Officers broke the glass in a window and pulled Davidson out of it.

Video shows trash can with Christian's body in it

Crime scene investigator Joe Cox, with the police department, took the stand as the state showed his video of the Chipman Street home almost immediately after Christian's body was found.

The courtroom was very quiet as the video rolled showing bullets, a gas can, trash and heaps of clothing on the floors, liquor bottles, a TV turned on and sheets for doors.

The video also showed the trash can in the kitchen that had Christian's body in it. Christian's father, Gary, looked furious and rocked back and forth in his seat as it played.

Cox said there was so much evidence in the house a paddy wagon was used to haul it.

Landlord rented house to suspects

James Mitchell, the man who owned the Chipman Street house, was called to the witness stand Tuesday afternoon.

Mitchell testified that he rented the house to Davidson and his girlfriend, Daphne Sutton. He also said when he went to collect the rent on a Saturday in January 2007, Cobbins answered the door.

Judge allows testimony on Cobbins with gun

After sending the jury out, Judge Richard Baumgartner heard testimony from Stacey Lawson. She said she saw Cobbins, who she called Rome, cleaning a revolver at the Chipman Street house a few weeks before the murders.

Lawson testified that Cobbins said Davidson gave him the gun.

Cobbins shook his head as Lawson said this.

Lawson has testified previously in federal court about the gun. The state argued that it showed Davidson and Cobbins were plotting together.

Judge Baumgartner decided to allow the testimony, but said it couldn't include repeated conversations with anyone but Cobbins.

Lawson testified that she was friends with Cobbins' then girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman. She said she traveled a couple of times with Cobbins and others to Davidson's house from Lebanon, Kentucky.

She also testified that on January 10, after the murders, she asked Cobbins what was wrong because she said everyone looked like something had happened.

Cobbins was teary-eyed and told her his brother, Davidson, had gone crazy and killed two people, Lawson said, but Cobbins wouldn't answer when she asked if he did this.

When the defense cross examined her, Lawson said she never saw the gun on her last trip to Knoxville, the weekend of the murders.

Witness saw suspect, police near murder scene

The state called Lynn Freeman to the stand where she testified about $500 Davidson owed her for some furniture.

She lived at Washington Ridge Apartments, where Newsom and Christian were allegedly carjacked, in January 2007 and was expecting Davidson that night. She said he never came and didn't sound like himself when she called.

Freeman testified that she went by the Chipman Street house on Sunday and saw George Thomas walking toward the railroad tracks before noon. That's the day Newsom's body was found.

She also testified that she went to the house again on Monday, but it looked like no one was there. Then she said she saw police in the area and left.

On cross examination, attorney Scott Green accused Freeman of being a crackhead. She denied it and also denied exchanging oxycontin with Davidson for crack cocaine.

Davidson's girlfriend: Cobbins was at house

The state called Daphne Sutton, Davidson's girlfriend and the niece of a Knoxville police officer, to the stand. She testified that she lived at the Chipman Street house with Davidson and Cobbins visited in November and December.

Sutton testified that she moved out of the house after Davidson hit her.

She said she left on January 5 when Cobbins, Thomas and Coleman were at the house.

Sutton testified that when she heard about Newsom's body being found, she called Davidson, then decided to go to the house for her belongings.

When she arrived, Cobbins was there with his head down and Thomas was rolling a joint, Sutton said.

She testified that she couldn't get into the bathroom and Davidson grabbed her when she went to another room. She said he walked her to the front of the house and sent her out with what she thought were new clothes.

On Monday morning, Sutton said she let Davidson stay with her at her friend's place. He arrived with a gun and Newsom's shoes.

Sutton broke down in tears as she admitted to learning the clothes Davidson gave her were Christian's.

She wiped tears as she agreed to the defense saying Davidson had a hair trigger, beat her repeatedly, choked her and put a gun to her head. She said Cobbins didn't stop Davidson, but would comfort her afterward.

Sutton also admitted that she was crying because what happened to Christian could have happened to her.

Sutton said Cobbins visited the Chipman Street house three times.

Witness: Cobbins claimed Davidson raped, killed

One of the state's last witnesses Tuesday was Vincent Wermimont, who was in prison with Davidson at one point.

Wermimont testified that Cobbins told him Davidson "f***ed some b**** and threw her in a trash can."

Did witnesses get leniency?

Before the jury returns Wednesday, Judge Baumgartner wants to talk to the attorneys about whether any witnesses were promised leniency for their testimony. The defense wants to know.

Christians mark 30th anniversary in court

Gary and Deena Christian spent their 30th wedding anniversary in the courtroom watching video and listening to testimony on the evidence of the daughter's murder.

"Whether you're a mother or a father and you have your child sit there and live her last few moments in a trash can and to endure the pain and the torture that she went through as well as Chris, you can't help but sit there...He's just a little more vocal," Deena said, looking at Gary. "But we're all sitting there boiling.


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