Vanessa Coleman will testify defense says in opening argument

Vanessa Coleman will testify defense says in opening argument

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Vanessa Coleman Vanessa Coleman
The purse that was entered into evidence against Coleman. The purse that was entered into evidence against Coleman.
Defense attorney Theodore Lavit said Coleman will testify in her trial. "She'll tell you everything she knows." Defense attorney Theodore Lavit said Coleman will testify in her trial. "She'll tell you everything she knows."

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The defense attorney for Vanessa Coleman told the jury in his opening argument Monday that she will testify later in her trial.

Coleman, 21, is the fourth defendant to stand trial for the robbery, rapes and murders of Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, in January 2007. She's facing the death penalty.

The bound body of Chris was found near some railroad tracks in East Knoxville. The medical examiner said he had been repeatedly raped, beaten and shot. His body was also burned.

The bound body of Channon was found in a trash can in a nearby house at 2316 Chipman Street two days later. The medical examiner said she was also repeatedly raped, beaten and bleach was poured down her throat. She suffocated in the trash can.

Coleman's ex-boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins and his friend, George Thomas, are serving life without parole for these murders.

LeMaricus Davidson, who is Cobbins' half-brother, received the death penalty.

A sequestered jury of nine women and three men is hearing the case against Coleman, along with four alternates.

The state read the charges against Coleman, including felony murder and first degree murder, before opening arguments. She pleaded not guilty to all of them.

As Judge Richard Baumgartner explained to the jury, the burden is on the state to prove that Coleman benefited from the proceeds of the crimes against Christian and Newsom.

State's opening argument

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald told the jury that Coleman wound up with items from Channon Christian's purse in her own.

Fitzgerald outlined the details of the crimes, and said Coleman was offered the chance to leave the Chipman Street house days before the crimes, but she didn't.

She showed pictures of the trash can where Christian's body was found and described her injuries.

Fitzgerald finished by telling the jury everything they need to know about Coleman was in that purse.

Defense's opening argument

Defense attorney Theodore Lavit told the jury Vanessa Coleman has never used a gun, but she had a gun put in her face at the house on Chipman Street.

Lavit also alluded to an immunity deal for Coleman, telling the jury she was first put in protective custody.

He said Christian's perfume was in Coleman's purse, but it was a gift that was given to her and "she didn't put two and two together."

Lavit said Coleman never saw Chris Newsom or knew what happened to him because he was never brought in the Chipman Street house. He said only Christian was brought in the house, and Coleman offered her water.

He also said Coleman didn't know Cobbins and Davidson went out and carjacked Christian and Newsom.

When Coleman tried to leave the house on Chipman Street, Lavit said Cobbins threatened her with a gun.

Lavit said Coleman only rode in Christian's stolen Toyota 4-Runner because Davidson forced her to, refusing to leave her in the home alone.

He said Coleman will testify in her trial. "She'll tell you everything she knows." He told 6 News during the lunch break that Coleman will testify "big time" and she has "nothing to lose."

Lavit said Coleman tried to get away from Cobbins after she, Cobbins and Thomas fled Knoxville, but she was threatened again.

Newsom's best friend helped with search

The state began its case by calling Chris Newsom's best friend, Josh Anderson, to the stand.

Anderson said the evening of the carjacking, Newsom was going to get Channon and eat dinner and then come to a party with their friends.

He said the couple's friends began to worry about their whereabouts after Christian didn't show up for work on Sunday.

Anderson looked at aerial maps of the area around where the carjacking took place at Christian's best friend's apartment complex, Washington Ridge, on Washington Pike.

He also identified the area around the Chipman Street house where Christian's SUV was found and where he and other friends and family searched for the couple after getting a location from a cell phone tower on Cherry Street.

Anderson identified Newsom's Nike tennis shoes as evidence. The shoes were later found with Davidson in the house where he was arrested.

On cross examination by the defense Coleman's other attorney, Russ Green, attempted to get Anderson to admit that he removed marijuana from Newsom's pickup truck, but the state objected and the judge agreed.

Christian's best friend IDs her stolen items

The state's next witness was Channon Christian's best friend, Kara Sowards. The couple was carjacked outside her apartment.

Sowards said Christian and Newsom dated "just a couple of months" before they were killed.

Sowards said Newsom wanted to take Christian to dinner the night of the carjacking so she left Christian at Washington Ridge Apartments to wait for him.

Sowards retraced the events of Saturday January 6, 2007, the evening the couple went missing. Like Anderson, she said she wasn't too concerned until the next day when she couldn't reach Christian.

She said when Christian's mother called Sunday saying she didn't show up for work, she felt something was wrong because Christian always went to work.

Sowards said she helped with the search for the couple.

She identified evidence belonging to Christian including a bottle of Brittany Spears perfume she said Newsom bought for Christian after Christian used all of Sowards', clothing and an iPod.

Worker at next door facility saw stolen SUV

The state called Xavier Jenkins, an employee of Waste Connections, to the stand. The facility is next to where the Chipman Street home stood. 

Jenkins was at work late on the Saturday night of the carjacking. He said he saw Christian's SUV with the headlights on in front of the house and the house "seemed busy."

Jenkins said he left to call his trainer and when he returned, he saw the SUV drive by him. He said four black men were in it and they "mean mugged" him as they went by.

He identified the SUV in photos.

Cousin of accessory convict loaned car

Adrienne Mathis, 27, took the stand for the state. She's the cousin of Eric Boyd, who was convicted on federal accessory charges in this case and sentenced to 18 years.

In 2007, Mathis owned a white Sunbird that she loaned to Boyd and said she never got back. Boyd was accused of driving Davidson and Cobbins in the Sunbird to do the carjacking.

Police impounded the car. Mathis said there were bullets and a gas can in it.

Neighbor on Chipman Street heard "pops"

A man who lives on Chipman Street, Jerome Arnold, testified that around 1:45 a.m. on January 7, 2007 he heard three pops. Newsom was shot three times.

Sand blaster working in area saw smoke

The state called Roy Thurman, a sand blaster who worked near the railroad tracks where Newsom's body was found. He said he saw smoke coming from the area. Newsom's body was burned after he was shot.

Railroad engineer spots Newsom's body

A Norfolk Southern engineer named J.D. Ford testified that he saw smoke near tracks and, "As I got closer, I could tell it was a body." He eventually saw it was a badly burned man's body.

He later identified the body when officers responded.

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald showed Ford one graphic photo of Newsom's body which he identified, along with other photos of the area.

Fire Marshal's Agent checks evidence

State Fire Marshal's Agent Robert Watson testified about the Newsom crime scene saying he brought his K-9 officer who alerted on evidence of hydrocarbons.

Forensic expert describes evidence around body

Knoxville Police Department forensic expert Russ Whitfield testified on finding floral strips of cloth near where Newsom's body was found.

Whitfield also examined a dog leash at that scene.

Another expert catalogs evidence

Another Knoxville police examiner, Kim Hodge, testified that she cataloged bullets taken from Newsom's body. She also collected cloth fragments and a belt from Newsom's body from the medical examiner.


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