Defense witness: couple at E. Knox gas station night of carjacking

Defense witness: couple at E. Knox gas station night of carjacking

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LeMaricus Davidson LeMaricus Davidson
Ethel Freeman said she saw Channon Christian and Chris Newsom at an Exxon station at Cherry St. and Magnolia Ave. the night of the carjacking, which was Saturday night, between 9:30 and 10:00. Ethel Freeman said she saw Channon Christian and Chris Newsom at an Exxon station at Cherry St. and Magnolia Ave. the night of the carjacking, which was Saturday night, between 9:30 and 10:00.
Jeffrey Bradley said he saw Davidson get out of Christian's 4Runner with her one night when he was outside looking for his mother's cat. Jeffrey Bradley said he saw Davidson get out of Christian's 4Runner with her one night when he was outside looking for his mother's cat.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Defense witness Ethel Freeman told the jury Saturday morning she saw the Christian-Newsom murder victims at a gas station the night they were carjacked.

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

The state rested its case Saturday morning after six days of testimony.

Court is taking a day off on Sunday. Testimony will resume Monday.

Defense witness: Christian and Newsom at gas station night of carjacking

The defense called Ethel Lynn Freeman to the stand. She lived at Washington Ridge apartment complex where the state has said Christian and Newsom were carjacked.

Freeman said instead, she saw Christian and Newsom at an Exxon station at Cherry Street and Magnolia Avenue the night of the carjacking, which was Saturday night, between 9:30 and 10:00.

She testified the couple was in an SUV type vehicle, but she didn't remember the make or model. She said she thought it was silver, but wasn't certain.

Christian's empty silver Toyota 4Runner was found parked on Chipman Street after she went missing. The SUV was a few streets down from a house rented by Davidson and his then girlfriend, Daphne Sutton.

Christian's body was found in Davidson's house on Tuesday.

Freeman said she'd never seen the couple before and Christian asked her for money because they'd run out of gas and wanted to go to Jefferson City or Johnson City. She said she couldn't remember for certain.

There was disbelief on the faces of the victims' families over Freeman's statements.

On cross examination, Freeman told prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald Davidson, Cobbins and others helped her move to Washington Ridge apartments.

She said she sold some furniture to Davidson and he was making payments on it.

Freeman said she expected Davidson the night Christian and Newsom went missing and he never arrived. She said she fell asleep waiting for him and when she woke up, she called him.

Freeman said Davidson sounded very "flustered" on the phone, so much so she told him he needed to calm down or he would have a heart attack. He said he'd pay her the next day, Sunday, for the furniture.

Freeman testified that she went to Davidson's house on Sunday.

Freeman said another woman who lived on the street, Rhonda Dukes, called to her, saying her engagement was broken off. Dukes was engaged to Freeman's cousin.

Freeman said she saw another one of the defendants, George Thomas, walking by around noon, but she didn't speak to him. She thought he was "creepy."

Freeman said she went into Dukes' house to see dishes that had belonged to her (Freeman's) grandmother, but she didn't take them because she was pressed for time.

She said she drove back home without going to Davidson's house. She saw a train stopped on tracks near Chipman Street and learned later it was because Newsom's body had been found nearby.

Freeman said Davidson called and said he'd bring her money to her. She asked him to wait until after 3:00 p.m. because she was expecting company. However, she said she never heard from him again.

Freeman said she went to Davidson's house again on Monday to get her money, but it looked empty, like a "ghost house."

Phone records indicate Freeman called Davidson around 3:00 a.m. Sunday and it lasted for just under two minutes.

When asked what she thought of Cobbins, Freeman said she didn't like him and thought he was "mean."

Freeman told Fitzgerald she was certain she saw Christian and Newsom at the Exxon station on Saturday night and they didn't look like people who would need gas money.

She said when she saw news reports about the couple being found murdered, she recognized them as the couple at the gas station.

The jury asked Freeman if she saw what the couple was wearing at the gas station. She said she didn't notice.

In response to another jury question, Freeman said she was paying cash at the station and didn't know if the pumps had debit card readers.

A juror asked, "If you didn't have money for your KUB bill, what were you buying at the Exxon station?" Freeman said she did have money for the bill but "not enough" and she was buying "gas."

Freeman told the jury the couple didn't appear to be in distress and she didn't see anyone else with them.

Freeman also told the jury Davidson sounded "just in a rush" on the phone when she spoke to him.

In the trial of Letalvis Cobbins, the state called Freeman as a witness. Her testimony was similar to Saturday's except for her account of Christian and Newsom at the gas station, which was new.

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

Cobbins was convicted in August in this case and sentenced to life without parole.

Witness: saw couple on Chipman Street

The defense called Jeffrey Bradley, who lived on Chipman Street. He said he didn't know Davidson.

Bradley said he saw police around Christian's 4Runner the night it was found.

Bradley said he saw Davidson get out of Christian's 4Runner with her one night when he was outside looking for his mother's cat.

Bradley also said he talked to the police after the murders and picked Christian's picture out of a photo lineup.

Bradley said he saw Davidson and two women get out of a teal Grand Am on Chipman Street a couple of days before the murders at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.

Prosecutor Leland Price asked if the car could be a Grand Am driven by Natasha Hayes or Stacey Lawson, who lived in Kentucky. "Could that be the car we're talking about?" Price asked. "I don't know. I just saw the car," Bradley said.

Lawson was the girlfriend of George Thomas at the time. She has testified previously in this trial about making visits to Davidson's house. Hayes lived at the house in Kentucky where Thomas, Cobbins and Cobbins' then girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman, were arrested.

Bradley said he "hates to say" the woman with Davidson was Christian because of the murders and can't say he's "100 percent certain," but "in my heart, I believe it was her."

Price asked Bradley about a slew of convictions for felonies. He said he probably was that person, to several of the questions. Then he said he wasn't denying he was convicted.

The jury asked Bradley if there were street lights where he saw Davidson and Christian. He said there was a light directly above them.

Will Davidson testify?

Judge Richard Baumgartner told Davidson he has the right to testify in his defense, but he can be cross examined by the state.

If he does, Davidson could be asked about a prior aggravated robbery conviction, but not about any prior kidnapping or carjacking convictions.

Davidson may be considering doing this. 6 News was told this by a source. His attorney, Doug Trant, said if Davidson does testify, it's against his attorneys' advice. However, the judge told Davidson it's his decision. It can't be made by his attorneys.

"I'm sure you've given it a great deal of thought already," the judge said. Davidson shook his head no.

The judge said Davidson has to decide by Monday morning.

Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, testified in his defense in his trial in August.

Medical examiner can't determine Christian's time of death

Before the state rested, Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan finished her testimony.

Prosecutor Fitzgerald asked about Christian's time of death, and the medical examiner said, "I can only give a time interval" between Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon.

The medical examiner also said she couldn't determine if Christian was conscious at the time of her death.

On cross examination, defense attorney David Eldridge asked Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan about Christian's body and the warm temperature in the Chipman Street house where Christian was found. The medical examiner said Christian's clothes were damp.

There was an "unusual degree of decomposition of the body" Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said.

The medical examiner said she started examining Christian's body around 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

Eldridge asked if it's possible Christian was alive Monday after 2:00 a.m. "Yes, it's possible she was alive," Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said. That's when Knoxville police fingerprint analyst Daniel Crenshaw said he processed Christian's stolen Toyota 4Runner.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian's hair wasn't analyzed for drugs.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan also said the injuries to Christian's genital area indicate she could've been kicked or raped with an object.

Just before an autopsy photo of Christian was shown, district attorney's office assistant Karen Manning, who fainted during the showing of photos Friday, left the courtroom.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan told the defense again that an object could have been used to cause some of Christian's injuries.

Motion for mistrial denied

After a break, the defense asked for a mistrial, saying the state hasn't met its burden of proof on the charges.

The judge denied the motion. He said the burden of proof has been met and it's up to the jury to decide guilt or innocence.

Mistrial denied over DA's assistant fainting

At the start of the trial Saturday morning, the defense said during the medical examiner's testimony Thursday afternoon, a photo was shown to the jury that their team had previously objected to. Attorney David Eldridge said when it was shown, that's when Manning fainted.

Eldridge asked the court for a mistrial because of the photo, saying it had prejudiced the jury.

Prosecutor Price said a mistrial wasn't necessary.

Judge Baumgartner pointed out that the court took a recess and he felt a mistrial wasn't appropriate so he denied the request.

Prosecutor Fitzgerald said Manning fainted because she was overwhelmed by the graphic scope of the trial.

When the jury was brought back in, the judge instructed them that the DA's assistant fainting should have no bearing on their decisions in this trial.


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