Court hears motions to suppress statements in Thomas trial

Court hears motions to suppress statements in Thomas trial

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George Thomas George Thomas

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The court heard defense motions Tuesday and Wednesday to try to suppress statements George Thomas made to police in the Christian-Newsom murders case.

ATF agent Bernard Waggoner was called to the stand to testify on Thomas' arrest and questioning.

Waggoner said Thomas' then girlfriend, Stacy Lawson, first denied knowing the defendants, but then told him about the Lebanon, Kentucky home where Thomas was arrested, along with Letalvis Cobbins and his then girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman, in January 2007.

Cobbins was convicted and sentenced in August to life without parole. Coleman's case is on appeal and no date has been set for her trial.

During Tuesday's hearing, the defense ATF agents under the microscope pointing out that authorities swooped into the Lebanon, Kentucky home without a proper warrant.

In response agent Waggoner said Thomas had to be arrested quickly because he was a flight risk. Waggoner says he was told by Lawson that she was on her way to pick up Thomas, Cobbins and Coleman to another unknown location. 

Meanwhile the defense also says Thomas was questioned by officers for hours without being told why he was in custody.

Thomas was only given paperwork of his arrest more than 11 hours after he was taken into custody.

Initially, Thomas was only charged as an accessory after the fact, not with murder. Thomas wasn't charged with murder until more than two weeks later, in the form of a presentment.

After agent Waggoner, another ATF Agent, Rebecca Bobich, took the stand. She revealed that Thomas borrowed four DVDs from a library in Marion, County, Kentucky. 

Three of those DVDs were found during a search at the Chipman Street home where murder victim Channon Christian's body was found.

The hearing continued Wednesday when defense attorneys asked officers about the timeline leading up to identifying Thomas and his arrest.

Prosecutors argued they had plenty of probably cause, namely a key witness who places Thomas in the Chipman Street home.

The victim's parents agree. "They could detain him based on what they knew. It's a good thing they did, you know. He was about to try to go somewhere," said Channon Christian's father, Gary.

"They had probable cause," said Christopher Newsom's father, Hugh. "They proved they had probable cause. The paperwork was in place. There should be no question about suppressing his statements or anything else."

Judge Richard Baumgartner said he'll make a decision on the Thomas motions after the trial of LeMaricus Davidson, the alleged ringleader in the murders. Opening arguments are due on Monday, October 19.

The judge went to Chattanooga Tuesday morning to give out about 50 to 75 more jury questionnaires for the Thomas trial.

The jury is being selected in Hamilton County. The trial will be in Knoxville.

The judge said he did this because the Thomas trial was delayed, due to the delay in Davidson's trial.

He's concerned that more potential jurors will drop out during the delay so he's adding to the pool.

6 News Reporter Hana Kim and Anchor/Reporter Erica Estep contributed to this report.


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