DA's asst. faints during testimony on victims' gruesome deaths

DA's asst. faints during testimony on victims' gruesome deaths

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LeMaricus Davidson LeMaricus Davidson
This is one of the few photos the cameras in court were allowed to show from the Chris Newsom crime scene. This is one of the few photos the cameras in court were allowed to show from the Chris Newsom crime scene.
Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan used a mannequin and rods to show the trajectories of Newsom's gunshot wounds. Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan used a mannequin and rods to show the trajectories of Newsom's gunshot wounds.
TBI technician Jennifer Millsaps identified samples she tested in this case. TBI technician Jennifer Millsaps identified samples she tested in this case.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- An assistant with the district attorney's office fainted Friday during the Knox County medical examiner's testimony about the gruesome deaths of the Christian-Newsom murder victims.

Judge Richard Baumgartner said the jury will likely get the case to start deliberating on Monday.

LeMaricus Davidson is charged in the carjacking, rapes and murders of Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom in January 2007. 

Newsom's body was found bound, shot and burned along a set of railroad tracks near Chipman Street.

Christian's body was found two days later, bound, wrapped in trash bags and stuffed in a trash can in a house on Chipman Street. The house was rented by Davidson and his then girlfriend, Daphne Sutton.

Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan did autopsies on Christian and Newsom.

Newsom's body

She said investigators and an assistant medical examiner went to the scene where Newsom's body was found and recorded it. The photos of that scene are only shown in court, not online or in later news broadcasts.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Newsom's body was face up, badly charred and his feet were bound by a belt. "The body was subjected to high heat."

Newsom's upper body was more burned. His ankles weren't burned, but they were charred.

In fact, Newsom's body was so charred, he was unrecognizable. His parents cried as they sat in the courtroom holding each other.

Newsom's arms were bound behind his back. He was gagged with an ankle sock and his head was covered with a sweatshirt. He was also blindfolded with a bandana.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said the gunshot to Newsom's head caused "instantaneous death." He was also shot in the neck and back.

She described the condition of Newsom's anal area saying it had tears and lots of bruising and explained that "indicates anal penetration."

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Newsom walked to his death barefoot, dressed in just his underwear, and there was dirt on his feet.

She said Newsom was raped one or two hours before his death.

"This is not just a rape," the medical examiner said. "This is the blunt trauma where an object comes in contact and severely damages the tissue. The depth of the injury was so grave there was no way that just the regular rape could inflict this."

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said her findings are consistent with the state's timeline that Newsom was shot around 1:45 a.m. Sunday. Previous testimony in this trial indicated smoke was seen coming from the railroad tracks at 7:45 a.m.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan used a mannequin and rods to show the trajectories of Newsom's gunshot wounds. 

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald suggested Newsom was bent over when he was shot in the back, explaining the trajectory of that bullet.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said there was blunt trauma to Newsom's head, perhaps from hitting the ground after being shot.

She said she collected blood samples for drug and alcohol screens of Newsom and found traces of alcohol, marijuana and adderall.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Newsom's stomach was empty, indicating he hadn't eaten the night of his death.

Christian's body

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian was found bound in a fetal position in the trash can. There were five trash bags around her body. A smaller white bag was around her head, which was turned at an angle.

She said asphyxia was the cause of death and it happened in the trash can.

Davidson appeared to glance at the photos and then looked away.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian had tears, bruising and swelling in her vaginal and anal areas, as well as signs of blunt force trauma.

At this point, an assistant to the district attorney's office, attorney Karen Manning fainted. Court recessed while officials gathered around her and a nurse was called. Officials said later Manning will be fine.

After the break, Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan returned to the stand and resumed testifying about Christian's body.

She said Christian was raped repeatedly, then kicked repeatedly in the vaginal area before she was stuffed in the trash can while she was alive. She also suffered blows to the head, her arms were grabbed with force and she had carpet burns.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said tests of Christian's blood found no evidence of drugs.

TBI technician: Davidson's DNA found in tests on Christian

Earlier in the day, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation technician Jennifer Millsaps testified on tests she did regarding DNA in this case. Davidson's DNA samples were taken shortly after he was arrested.

Judge Baumgartner stopped court briefly Friday morning because one of the jurors knew Millsaps in high school. The judge asked if the juror knew her well. He said no. The judge also asked if knowing Millsaps would influence the juror's opinion. He said no.

Millsaps told prosecutor Leland Price she had samples from all four defendants in this case, along with the victims and other people who were interviewed including, Vincent Wernimont, Daphne Sutton and Stacey Lawson, the girlfriend of another defendant, and Eric Boyd.

Boyd was convicted in federal court in October 2008 as accessory after the fact to murder, but never charged with these slayings. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison

Millsaps said bleach, moisture and extreme heat are some of the things that can affect the outcome of DNA testing.

Millsaps identified items she examined: jeans, a sweater and a camisole all belonging to Christian.

She showed the jury different swabs taken from Christian and Newsom in their sexual assault kits. Newsom's kit included tests on oral and anal swabs.

Millsaps said she examined the items for blood, semen and other fluids.

Using standards from known DNA, Millsaps said she compared the DNA under examination for  any matches.

Millsaps said Christian's vaginal swab had a match to Davidson's DNA. When Price asked her about the odds of an identical match by anyone else, she said, "The expectation is, you'd never see a match."

She said an anal swab from Christian found Davidson's sperm and an oral swab found sperm from Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, who was convicted in August in this case and sentenced to life without parole.

Cobbins pleaded guilty to raping Christian at the start of his trial. Davidson has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

Millsaps said her examination of the floral fabric found binding Christian had DNA matches to Christian, Cobbins, his then girlfriend Vanessa Coleman as well as inconclusive DNA.

She said Christian's jeans had five identifiable stains with DNA of Christian, Davidson and Cobbins. Christian's blood was also found in one of the stains.

The court took a recess and before the jury was brought back in, the judge agreed to have the Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan to wait outside the courtroom.

The defense objected to the medical examiner's presence because they said she was listening to Millsaps' testimony.

Millsaps continued her testimony saying a pair of pink underwear was found in a purse with Christian's DNA and unidentifiable sperm.

She said Sutton can't be excluded from having touched a white strip of cloth with Christian's blood on it, but the cloth is from the Chipman Street home.

During cross examination, Millsaps told defense attorney David Eldridge that DNA can end up somewhere other than where it was deposited "through transfer."

Eldridge wanted to know if sperm found on Christian's items could have traveled from one orifice to another. He asked if it was possible she put her jeans on after having sex with Davidson, causing a stain with a DNA match on the crotch area. "Yes, it's possible," Millsaps said.

Eldridge asked if tests showed a presence of semen in Newsom. "Yes, but no sperm," Millsaps said.

Eldridge also asked about Y-STR testing for DNA. It's a specific help in separating male DNA. The TBI doesn't do Y-STR testing.

Y-STR testing was used in this case to try to identify two sperm samples found in Christian's underwear, but the tests didn't match any of the defendants, anyone who was interviewed or Newsom.

Millsaps told Eldridge it's possible that bleach can degrade DNA. Investigators believe bleach was poured down Christian's throat. A stain was found on her camisole and a bottle of spray bleach cleaner was found in the Chipman Street house.

In rebuttal questioning, Millsaps said no DNA profile could be obtained from a Newsom swab with semen and no sperm.

Defense witness has misgivings

Susan Hill, a witness the defense plans to call, said Friday she fears for her life and isn't certain she wants to testify.

She said she doesn't have anything relevant to add to this case, but believes the defense wants to call her because she has knowledge of prior contact between Davidson and one of the victims.

Hill said if she does testify, she doesn't want any cameras in court.

Hill's motion to block a subpoena from the defense will be heard Monday.


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