Thomas found guilty of Christian-Newsom murders

Thomas found guilty of Christian-Newsom murders

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George Thomas George Thomas

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Jurors found George Thomas guilty Tuesday of the murders of Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, in January 2007. He faces the possibility of the death sentence.

Thomas could also be sentenced to life without parole or life in prison.

VERDICT FORMS AND JURY CHARGE

Thomas was convicted of all 38 counts against him including especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape and theft of property.

The jurors, seven women and five men, got the case Monday afternoon and deliberated for about two hours before wrapping for the night. They started again Tuesday morning at 9:00. Word came of their decision just before 1:30. The total deliberation time was about five-and-a-half hours.

Thomas' mother and aunt were in court for the verdict. They've attended the trial since it began on December 1.

Sentencing hearing due, impact statements rehearsed

Since Thomas was found guilty of the first degree murder and felony murder, the jury will sentence him instead of the judge. Those counts carry the possibility of the death penalty.

The sentencing hearing starts Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.

The jurors will hear the impact statements, then deliberate and announce their decision.

The jurors weren't allowed to hear the rehearsals of the victims' impact statements, which were done Tuesday morning in the courtroom.

Judge Baumgartner also approved several pictures of Christian and Newsom that will be shown to the jurors in the sentencing hearing.

Judge's ruling delayed on defense motion for acquittal

Judge Baumgartner denied an initial motion by the defense Monday to acquit Thomas after his attorneys argued that the state didn't meet its burden of proof in the case.

However, the defense renewed its motion for acquittal. This time, Judge Baumgartner reserved his judgement on the motion. He said he'll issue his decision after the sentencing hearing.

This means the judge has the final say on the matter, barring any appeals. He could possibly throw out the verdict if he feels it's not backed up by the evidence.

Jury question on criminal responsibility

The jurors sent a question to Judge Baumgartner after the rehearsals of the impact statements Tuesday morning.

They asked if criminal responsibility applies to all counts against Thomas, including first degree murder. The judge said it does.

He didn't bring the jurors back in the courtroom to answer the question. He sent the written answer to them instead.

The case and charges against Thomas

Thomas was the third defendant to be tried in the Christian-Newsom murders.

He was accused of 12 separate offenses against Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom.

The couple was carjacked, each raped multiple times and murdered on the weekend of January 6-7, 2007.

Thomas could have been found guilty of lesser charges including facilitation of the murders, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide or criminally negligent homicide.

Thomas' convictions more severe than Cobbins, Davidson

The guilty convictions of George Thomas on all 38 counts against him were the most severe convictions a jury in the Christian-Newsom murders has returned, although the state had no DNA evidence or fingerprints from Thomas.

He was tried by a jury brought to Knoxville from Hamilton County.

The first defendant to stand trial in this case, Letalvis Cobbins, was found guilty of the first degree murder of Christian and guilty of the lesser charge of facilitation of first degree felony murder of Newsom.

The state had Cobbins' DNA evidence on Christian and his fingerprints on some of the evidence.

Cobbins was tried by a jury brought to Knoxville from Davidson County, where Nashville is the county seat. He was sentenced to life without parole.

The second defendant who was tried in this case, Cobbins' half-brother, LeMaricus Davidson, was found guilty of the lesser charge of facilitating Newsom's rapes, rather than raping Newsom himself.

Davidson was sentenced to the death penalty by a jury from Knox County.

Families rehearse impact statements

Chris' mother and father, Mary and Hugh Newsom, took the stand and rehearsed the statements they would read to jurors if Thomas has a sentencing hearing.

The Newsoms also rehearsed their statements for the trials of Letalvis Cobbins and his half-brother, LeMaricus Davidson.

But the Newsoms didn't get to read their statements in Cobbins' trial because he was only convicted of the facilitation of Chris' murder.

The Christians have rehearsed their impact statements and given them in the Cobbins and Davidson trials because both men were convicted of murdering Channon.

Thomas was in the court room for the rehearsals, but had no visible reaction.

Newsom's mother

When she took the stand, Mary Newsom, said Chris "was the type of son any mother would be proud to have."

"You just can't get the images out of your mind about what happened," Mary said. "I have many sleepless nights."

She said Chris was a talented artist and athlete who loved going to the beach and NASCAR.

She said on his last Christmas with his family, he said he didn't want anything but "world peace."

Newsom's father

When Hugh Newsom took the stand, he wore a button with Chris' photo pinned on his jacket. Judge Baumgartner reminded him that he can't wear it in front of jury. Hugh said he knew that. Mary wore her button on the stand for her rehearsal also.

"I go up to (Chris') room from time to time. It's full of trophies, ribbons and medals, but it's empty," Hugh said.

Hugh's voice cracked as he said, "I know he was scared having to walk with cold mud caked on his feet to his execution spot, but I know his last thought was his concern for Channon."

"If I could give all my money and live on the streets to get Chris back, I would do it. That's how much I miss him."

"This Christmas, remember the Christian and Newsom families," Hugh said, "because there will be an empty seat at the tables." His words caused his wife to weep.

Channon's mother

Deena Christian said her Channon "was beautiful inside and out," loved her brother, was  daddy's girl and her mother's best friend.

Channon was a sociology major a senior at the University of Tennessee when she was killed and wanted to help children for a living.

"Did Channon and Chris suffer? What do you think?" Deena asked as her husband, Gary, stared at Thomas.

"My perfect family is now broken," Deena said, as she looked at Thomas.

Deena said she and Gary failed Channon because "We were unable to keep her safe."

She also said the defendants could have kept Channon's Toyota 4Runner, but they wanted their daughter back.

"You never think anything like this could happen, but it can and it did. I hope she can forgive us for failing to protect her."

"There's a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. I miss my little peanut," Deena said, she fought back tears and stepped down from the stand.

Channon's father

Gary cried as he read his statement. He said Channon's greatest wish was to one day have four children.

He said Channon loved her brother and followed him through five states as he played ball, telling him to "cowboy up" when he got down.

Gary looked at Thomas as he said, "The pain won't go away. I hope some way, some day, she can forgive me. I want her to know once and for all I love her more."

He left the stand staring at Thomas, who didn't look back. Then Gary and Deena hugged each other.


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