On tape: Thomas admits he saw victims blindfolded in house

On tape: Thomas admits he saw victims blindfolded in house

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George Thomas George Thomas
Natosha Hays described how a friend of hers found a gun in her home in a box. This was after officers searched her home the day before and didn't find it. Natosha Hays described how a friend of hers found a gun in her home in a box. This was after officers searched her home the day before and didn't find it.
ATF Agent Barney Waggoner identifies evidence for prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald. ATF Agent Barney Waggoner identifies evidence for prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald.
Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan used a mannequin to show how Chris Newsom was shot. Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan used a mannequin to show how Chris Newsom was shot.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- On an interrogation tape played Friday, George Thomas, the third defendant being tried in the Christian-Newsom murders, admitted he saw the victims blindfolded in the house where Channon Christian's body was found.

Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were carjacked, raped and murdered on the weekend of January 6-7, 2007.

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

Christian's body was found two days later in a trash can in a defendant's rental house on Chipman Street. She was wrapped in trash bags and the medical examiner said she eventually suffocated.

Woman drove Thomas, others, to Ky. in exchange for drugs

The state's first witness was Jody Long, a friend of Vincent Wernimont, who got drugs from LeMaricus Davidson.

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

Wernimont and Davidson met in a West Tennessee state penitentiary. Wernimont asked Davidson to move to Knoxville when he was released.

Long testified that she was asked to take Thomas, and two other defendants, Letalvis Cobbins and Vanessa Coleman, to Kentucky.

She said Wernimont paid her with a morphine, cocaine and a full tank of gas.

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

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.

Long told the court the trio seemed "normal," but also said she smoked dope before the drive.

Long said the trip took about four hours. They made two stops for gas and food.

Long told ATF agents she couldn't identify who she drove to Kentucky because of her drug use, but she pointed Thomas out in court.

Woman says gun found at her Ky. home after arrests

The state's next witness was Natosha Hays. Thomas, Cobbins and Coleman were arrested at her house in Lebanon, Kentucky.

Hays said she met Thomas through Cobbins.

She described the trio coming to her home after the crimes and said they, "seemed a little edgy."

Hays said they used her computer while they were there and she asked Thomas what was wrong? she said, he told her it was "none of your concern."

Knoxville stations were reporting the murders of Christian and Newsom at that point and broadcasting that Davidson and Cobbins were wanted for questioning.

Hays said Thomas' then girlfriend, Stacey Lawson, took the defendants to a convenience store to buy snacks for them with food stamps.

Hays described how a friend of hers found a gun in her home under a bed in a box. This was after officers searched her home the day before and didn't find it.

Investigators have theorized that Coleman hid the gun there after the house was searched because it was used in the murders. However, analysts haven't been able to identify any of the guns in evidence as being used to kill Chris Newsom.

ATF agent: Officers had to go in to get Thomas when he wouldn't come out

The state called ATF Agent Barney Waggoner to the stand. He testified that on January 10, he and other agents traveled to Kentucky to locate the suspects.

Waggoner said the next day, agents tracked down the suspects at Hays' house through Lawson.

Waggoner mentioned that agents knew who Hays was and who other suspects were as well.

At that point, Judge Richard Baumgartner halted testimony and sent the jury out for a recess. Then he explained that they must be careful about discussing criminal pasts in front of this jury. Thomas has no prior record in Kentucky.

The Thomas defense team moved for a mistrial, but the judge denied it, saying he didn't think any damage was done.

Judge Baumgartner did direct the prosecutors and Waggoner to work out how they will clear up any confusion about Thomas' past.

When the jury was brought back in and Waggoner came back to the stand, prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked him questions to clarify that Thomas has no prior record in Kentucky.

Waggoner then described the arrests of Thomas and Cobbins at Hays' house after it was surrounded. He said Hays and Coleman came out first.

Waggoner said eventually, everyone was out of the house but Thomas, who wouldn't come out after repeated calls. Then officers saw someone looking out of the blinds.

Waggoner and other officers went in, but Thomas stayed upstairs. He said after repeated warnings, Thomas came downstairs and was taken into custody.

Agent Waggoner said the suspects were taken to the police station. He guarded Thomas and Coleman. Cobbins was already being questioned.

Waggoner said he had a short conversation with Thomas and asked if he played football because of a T-shirt he wore. Thomas said he played for "a couple of years" in Michigan.

Officers searched Hays' house, looking specifically for .22 caliber bullets.

Waggoner said he looked under the bed where the gun was later found, but it wasn't there when he looked.

Thomas was questioned after Cobbins and served with a federal warrant while he was still in custody in Kentucky.

Waggoner identified several items found at Hays' house including pink shoes and a torn phone charger which was in a toilet. Those were later identified as belonging to Channon Christian.

Waggoner also said he found a bullet hole in a wall and two in a ceiling panel that he believed were made by a .22 caliber gun.

Waggoner said officers ripped apart the walls, but didn't find bullets or casings. However, they found two .22 caliber bullets in a sink trap.

On cross examination, defense attorney Tom Dillard asked Waggoner if who knew who put the bullets in the sink trap or how long they had been there. Waggoner said he didn't know.

Waggoner told Dillard Thomas was told about three times to come out of the house before they went in after him, but he didn't resist when he was arrested.

Waggoner said Thomas was searched at the time of his arrest, but he didn't have any bullets or gun on him.

The jury asked Waggoner if officers searched the room of Hay's daughter. He said, they didn't. The jury asked why not? Waggoner said, "because of Hays' request not to search it."

On tape: Thomas admits he saw victims blindfolded in house

The state next called Knox County sheriff's Detective Nevil Norman to the stand. He helped interrogate Thomas when he was brought back to Tennessee in custody.

TRANSCRIPT OF GEORGE THOMAS INTERROGATION
  • Click here to read it. (Warning: The transcript includes graphic language.)

Judge Baumgartner ruled earlier this week to allow testimony about a racially charged statement Norman said Thomas made during his interrogation.

Norman said when they took a break, he had asked if Thomas didn't wish he had done something to help the victims.

Norman said Thomas responded, " 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."

Norman said the statement shocked him, but he didn't reveal it until 17 months later, in 2008. He said he wrote it up and turned it in to the sheriff and the district attorney general because it wasn't tape recorded.

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald questioned Norman about the statement on Friday and he admitted he was "tired" by the time he spoke with Thomas.

The state began playing a recording of Thomas' interrogation by sheriff's officers including now Knox County Sheriff J. J. Jones and then Sheriff Tim Hutchison. Norman said Hutchison was in and out during that time.

On tape, Thomas described Saturday afternoon, January 6. "I woke up around 4:00." An officer asked him about Eric Boyd and Thomas said, "He was over there."

Boyd was convicted in 2008 in a federal trial as an accessory in this case and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Thomas said he remembered seeing Davidson and Boyd with the victims. "I'm thinking, what are you all doing?"

Thomas said he was having trouble remembering what happened, but finally said Christian was taken into a bedroom by Davidson or Boyd. "I'm not saying anything but I ain't stupid," Thomas said.

Thomas admitted to officers that Christian and Newsom were blindfolded in Davidson's rental house on Chipman Street. He also admitted he was in Christian's stolen Toyota 4Runner, which was found parked on Chipman Street.

Thomas said Cobbins was talking to Davidson about planning a carjacking, but he didn't recall who went to carjack the car.

Thomas said "the girl" (Christian) was taken into a bedroom and "the dude" (Newsom) was taken outside. "That's when I went into the back bedroom."

Thomas told officers he said, "I don't want to be part of this. That's when we were trying to leave." He said Davidson and Cobbins argued.

"It looks bad that you were there, but it's worse because you're not telling the truth," Officer  Jones said.

"What happened to the guy?" an officer asked. "I just heard on the news his body was found by the railroad tracks," Thomas said.

"What about the girl?" an officer asked. "News said she was inside the house," Thomas said.

"Who took him (Newsom) out?" an officer asked. "They walked him outside. The dude and E (Eric Boyd) left," Thomas said, adding that Boyd had a gun to Newsom.

Thomas said Boyd came back about 20 minutes later by himself.

"I'm figuring they done something with the boy (Newsom," Thomas said. He also said that when Boyd walked in, everyone was talking and Christian was tied up in a bedroom.

Thomas also admitted that he saw Christian sitting in a chair without a blindfold. The officers asked if she looked scared, but Thomas said he didn't look at her.

Thomas told officers, "I'm positive I didn't have sex with that girl (Christian)."

An officer asked, "Do you recall that girl being in the bedroom hollering, 'Stop! Please don't do that!'" Thomas said, "Nah, I don't know."

Thomas said he slept by the room where investigators believe Christian was repeatedly raped, but, "I sleep hard. I didn't hear any hollering."

That's where investigators ended that part of their interview.

On the stand Friday, Detective Norman told the court the break with the racially charged statement came right after that.

After lunch the defense cross examined Norman. Defense attorney Tom Dillard asked Norman about the unrecorded statement he said Thomas made and wasn't there a better way to make it known than in a statement 17-and-a-half months later.

Norman said, "I probably could have (written it down) a day or two later, but I just didn't."

"That's not the best way to do that, is it?" Dillard asked. "Probably not," Norman said.

"In fact, you didn't quote it correctly this morning did you?" Dillard asked. "No, sir," Norman said.

Dillard also made a point about Norman's memory of the interrogation, saying, "You couldn't even recall that Sheriff Hutchison was there without the recording."

Dillard pointed out Thomas' confusion through much of his interrogation, referring to a transcript. "I smoke weed," Thomas said, also that he stayed in a back room.

Dillard also pointed out that Norman said to Thomas at one point during questioning, "You're the most innocent person here." Norman agreed, telling Dillard, "Yes, that's what I said."

TBI lab expert found likely bleach stain on Christian's camisole

The state next called Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab expert Randall Nelson to the stand. He examined stains on Christian's camisole and found one that was most likely bleach.

Officer monitored Thomas' mail in jail

Knox County sheriff's Officer Frank Noss took the stand. He monitors inmates' mail and read letters written between Cobbins and Thomas while they were in the detention center.

Noss said Thomas would sign his letters to Cobbins UTG (United Together) or BWL (Brothers with Love) and either write his middle name "Giovanni" or just "G."

Medical examiner details Newsom's injuries

The state called Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan to the stand. She also serves as medical examiner for Anderson County.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan described Newsom's body as the state showed photos taken at the scene. She said she wasn't at that scene, but one of her deputy examiners went there.

Newsom had three gunshot wounds, as well as the charring done to his body when it was burned and the materials found binding and gagging him.

She said Newsom's feet were bound by a belt.

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.

One of the gunshots was to Newsom's head. Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said it's the one that killed him. He was also shot in the neck and back.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said the amount of dirt on Newsom's feet indicated that he was forced to walk barefoot.

She also told prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald Newsom was apparently raped a couple of hours before he was killed. She made that determination due to bruises, tearing and how his body was trying to heal.

Thomas didn't react to the pictures of Newsom.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan also used a mannequin to show how Newsom was shot and where the bullets wound up. She said he was bent over when he was shot in the back.

She said his injuries were consistent with death around 1:45 a.m. Sunday. Newsom was dead when his body was set on fire.

Medical examiner details Christian's injuries

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said she went to the Chipman Street house to examine Channon Christian's body where it was found in a fetal position, stuffed in bags in a trash can.

Christian was bound. There were five trash bags around her body. A smaller white bag was around her head, which was turned at an angle.

As she described the injuries to Christian's genital area, Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said, "This is more than a rape. This is blunt trauma."

She said Christian's death happened sometime between Sunday evening and Monday and she died due to "lack of oxygen."

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian died with her eyes open and it could've taken within three to five minutes of being trapped in the trash can.

The jury asked if Christian was unconscious when she was raped. Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said it's not likely.

Court to be held on Saturday

The trial will resume Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. Judge Baumgartner said the proof by the state and the defense should be done by Saturday afternoon.

Thomas will have to tell the court whether he'll testify in his defense.


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