Third trial begins in Christian-Newsom murders case

Third trial begins in Christian-Newsom murders case

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George Thomas George Thomas
Josh Anderson said on Saturday, January 6, 2007, he and Chris Newsom played golf and made plans for the evening. Josh Anderson said on Saturday, January 6, 2007, he and Chris Newsom played golf and made plans for the evening.
Kara Sowards described helping with the search for Channon Christian's 4Runner after losing touch with the couple, who never arrived at the party. Kara Sowards described helping with the search for Channon Christian's 4Runner after losing touch with the couple, who never arrived at the party.
Channon's father, Gary Christian, said he had met Chris Newsom a few times when Channon brought him over after they started dating. Channon's father, Gary Christian, said he had met Chris Newsom a few times when Channon brought him over after they started dating.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The state used witness testimony to establish the timeline and describe a scene in the Christian-Newsom murders case on the first day of the George Thomas trial.

Thomas has pleaded not guilty to all 38 counts against him including first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, rape and theft.

Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were carjacked, raped and murdered in January 2007.

The jury was selected in Hamilton County and brought to Knoxville for the trial. The jurors are sequestered. They're allowed to ask questions during the trial and to take notes.

State: No DNA evidence but Thomas said he was there

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald told the jury the residents and visitors at LeMaricus Davidson's rental house on Chipman Street in East Knoxville didn't have cars, but they had access to guns.

Davidson was given the death penalty in October for his role in the slayings.

Fitzgerald said on the weekend of the crimes, Thomas and another defendant, Vanessa Coleman, stayed at the house while others carjacked the victims.

"How do we know?" Fitzgerald asked. "The defendant's statement." She admitted the state lacks DNA evidence against Thomas.

An appeal of Vanessa Coleman's case was denied on Monday. One of her attorneys said he expects her trial to be scheduled in the spring.

Fitzgerald said Channon Christian and Chris Newsom were carjacked at Washington Ridge apartments on Saturday, January 6, 2007. On Sunday at 1:45 a.m., a man who lives on Chipman Street hears three "Pop! Pop! Pop!" believed to be the shots that hit Newsom. One of those was fatal.

Fitzgerald described a Sunday evening visit to the Chipman Street house by Davidson's newly ex-girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, who sees Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, and Thomas in the house.

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

The Christian family found Channon's Toyota 4Runner Monday morning at 1:38 am. but she wasn't in it. Officers found her found in the Chipman Street house on Tuesday, January 9.

Thomas, Cobbins and Coleman went to Lebanon, Kentucky. A woman named Natasha Hays let the trio stay at her house from Tuesday until Thursday when they were arrested.

Thomas was the last suspect questioned by investigators. A Knox County sheriff's detective said Thomas said, "F!#* that white girl. She don't mean nothing to me. You cops come into my neighborhood and kill us why should I get involved in something that's none of my business" during his interrogation.

Fitzgerald played a recording of a phone call between Thomas and his then girlfriend, Stacey Lawson, while he was in custody.

Lawson asked, "You were there?" Thomas said, "Yeah, but I don't know s#*%. I was asleep."

Lawson asked, "Why didn't someone call the police? That girl didn't deserve what happened to her." Thomas said, "It wasn't none of my business."

Defense: Failure to act is reprehensible, not criminal

Thomas' attorney Tom Dillard told the jury, "George Thomas entered not guilty pleas because he's not guilty."

Dillard said Thomas overheard a conversation about stealing a car, but, "He did not participate in the crime" or know the victims would be kidnapped.

Dillard said Thomas was in the Chipman Street house when the victims were brought in, but he "did not rob anyone. He didn't rape anyone. He did not kill anyone."

"There's no DNA evidence linking Thomas to the crimes. This case is about what George Thomas didn't do. His failure to act is reprehensible, not criminal," Dillard said.

He also said Thomas' interrogation statement about "the white girl" and telling Lawson what went on with the victims was "none of my business" aren't criminal.

Newsom's best friend describes day he went missing

The state called its first witness, Josh Anderson to the stand. He was Chris Newsom's best friend.

Anderson said on Saturday, January 6, 2007, he and Newsom played golf and made plans for the evening. Newsom was also talking to Christian on the phone about their plans.

Newsom was going to take Christian to dinner before they went to a birthday party for another friend. When Newsom dropped him off around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. at a friend's house, Anderson said that was the last time he saw him.

Anderson said Newsom was headed to Washington Ridge Apartments to pick up Christian at her friend's apartment.

He said their friends didn't hear from Newsom and Christian Saturday night. They went to Christian's friend's apartment and got Anderson's golf clubs from Newsom's pickup truck.

Late Sunday, Anderson said they went back to the apartment. They got Newsom's truck and took it his family's home.

Anderson said he and other friends helped the Christian family find Channon's 4Runner parked on Chipman Street after her family helped track her cell phone signal.

He said they noticed decals on the 4Runner's windows had been removed. Plus, there was mud caked in the floorboard and a crushed pack of Newport cigarettes was in it. He said the couple didn't smoke those.

Anderson identified pictures of the 4Runner and several pieces of evidence including two of Newsom's ball caps and his Nike Shox tennis shoes.

The defense didn't ask Anderson any questions.

Christian's best friend describes night she went missing

The state called Channon Christian's best friend, Kara Sowards, to the stand. She lived at Washington Ridge Apartments at the time of the murders.

Sowards described Christian coming to her apartment the day of the party. She said she left for 8:00 p.m. and Christian stayed behind to wait for Newsom, who was going to take her to dinner first.

She said she spoke with Christian around 9:00 p.m. "She was upset that she had to wait for an hour." Newsom was running late to get her.

Sowards described helping with the search for Christian's 4Runner after losing touch with the couple, who never arrived at the party. She said the SUV was found at the corner of Chipman Street and Glider Avenue.

Sowards identified pictures of the 4Runner and several pieces of evidence including Christian's jeans and a camisole.

The defense didn't ask Sowards any questions.

Christian's father describes her last phone call, decision to look for her

Channon's father, Gary Christian, said he had met Newsom a few times when Channon brought him over after they started dating.

He said his daughter was majoring in sociology at the University of Tennessee and worked two jobs, including one in a shoe store at West Town Mall.

Gary described the last time he spoke to his daughter by phone the night she went missing. She called to say she and Newsom were watching a movie and she'd be home after that. He said he thought she was getting home "late."

He said he didn't hear anything in the background while they were on the phone.

Gary said later they realized Channon didn't come home that night. They started trying to call her cell phone, but got no answer.

Gary went to work where he got a call from his wife saying Channon never showed up for work at the shoe store. Her boss had called looking for her.

Eventually, Gary said his family started searching for Channon after his wife, Deena, had a "confrontation" with a sheriff's officer wanting something more done. They had reported her missing and were told to look for her themselves.

Gary said they were able to get a location for Channon's cell phone because the account was in their name. It had pinged last from a tower on Cherry Street, two streets away from Chipman Street.

He said he was unfamiliar with the area. Longtime Knoxville Police Department fleet manager Jack Barnes knew the Christians and talked Gary through doing the search there.

Gary described how they searched for Channon's 4Runner and got a call from some friends who thought they'd found it. He said when they got to it, he recognized it and noticed the decals had been removed.

Barnes met them at the scene. They were careful not to touch the SUV as they found no one was in it.

Gary looked at pictures of the 4Runner and described what the missing decals were. He also said a Toyota emblem was missing because Channon had hit a mail box and the repairs weren't finished. He pointed out where the emblem would have been.

He said the seats in the 4Runner were pushed back so far, even he couldn't have reached the pedals.

Gary identified Channon's jeans. He said Channon shopped for her clothes. Her mother washed them and he ironed them. He added that everyone else in his family claimed they didn't know how to iron jeans.

The defense didn't ask Gary any questions.

Waste Connections employee says he saw men in Christian's SUV

Xavier Jenkins, who worked at Waste Connections next door to the Chipman Street house, took the stand and told prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald he saw four black men in Christian's 4Runner the night the couple was carjacked.

Jenkins said investigators asked him if one of the people in the 4Runner could have been a woman. But after replaying it in his mind many times, he said he knows they were all men. He said the tallest man was the driver, who wore a hoodie.

On cross examination, defense attorney Tom Dillard asked Jenkins if he saw a white man in the 4Runner. He said, "Not in sight."

The jurors asked Jenkins their first question during the trial. They wanted to know about the street lights on Chipman Street. He said the lights helped him see in the 4Runner.

Cousin of accessory convict says she found bullets in car

The state called Adrienne Mathis, the cousin of Eric Boyd, to the stand. Boyd was convicted in 2008 as an accessory in this case and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Mathis testified that she had loaned her Pontiac Sunbird to Boyd during the weekend of the murders. She said she found bullets in the car after she got it back.

Chipman Street resident heard "explosive pops"

Chipman Street resident Jerome Arnold testified that he heard three "explosive pops" at 1:45 a.m. on January 7, 2007 while he was watching a TV show called "Outer Limits."

The state believes these were the gunshots that killed Chris Newsom.

The defense didn't ask Arnold any questions.

Norfolk Southern engineer finds Newsom's body

The state's next witness was Norfolk Southern engineer J.D. Ford. He testified that he was driving a train on January 7 on tracks near Chipman Street when he saw a fire.

Ford said he thought at first it was a fire lit by homeless people, but as he got closer, he realized it was the body of a white man that was burning. He said he could tell the race by the man's legs, but his upper body was burning.

Arson investigator: Accelerant used to burn Newsom's body

The state called arson investigator Robert Watson to the stand. He said he used a dog trained to sniff hydrocarbons to investigate where Newsom's body was found. The dog detected accelerant.

Evidence found at Newsom scene sent for analysis

A crime scene technician with the Knoxville Police Department testified that Newsom's body was found bound with small strips of cloth and gagged. A broken dog leash was found nearby.

On cross examination, defense attorney Tom Dillard asked where the materials found at the scene go. The technician said they were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

State's witness doesn't show

The first day of the trial ended early, around 4:45 p.m., after Judge Baumgartner said the last witness for the state didn't show up at court.


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