Two suspects in Knoxville double murder case plead not guilty

Two suspects in Knoxville double murder case plead not guilty

January 25, 2007

By SONU WASU
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Two suspects in the double murder of a young Knoxville couple pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday. And for the first time, another person connected the suspects to the brutal deaths.

Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas waived detention hearings when they appeared before Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton. They'll be held in custody until their trial, scheduled to begin March 28. 

The pair was extradited from Kentucky after a federal grand jury indicted them.

They are two of the four men accused in the carjacking deaths earlier in January of Channon Christian, a UT student, and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom.

None of the four has been charged yet with murder. Investigators say they continue gathering evidence to support further charges.

If murder charges are filed, they'll come from the Knox County District Attorney General's office. Assistant District Attorney John Gill says DAs are working very closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"They want to make sure everything is done in the most effective way possible to prosecute this case," Gill says. 

Cobbins and another one of the suspects, Lemaricus Davidson, are charged with taking Christian's Toyota 4-Runner by force with the "intent" to cause death and serious bodily harm." Davidson could face the death penalty if convicted on this charge alone.

Investigators have not said exactly where the carjacking took place. Knoxville police are staying tight lipped about the case due to the upcoming federal trials.

Letalvis Cobbins is also charged for possessing Winchester ammunition as a convicted felon.

George Thomas was indicted as an accessory for helping Davidson and Cobbins try to evade capture. He could face a sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Davidson and a fourth suspect, Eric Boyd, pleaded not guilty to their charges in federal court last week.

Davidson is charged with carjacking and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He could go to prison for life or face death for the crimes.

Boyd pleaded not guilty to the charge of being an accessory. He could be sentenced to prison for 7.5 years for the crime.

The murdered couple was last seen on a date on the night of January 6. Newsom's body was found the next day. It was bound, shot and burned, along the railroad tracks near 9th Ave.

New evidence was released to the public Thursday in a search warrant and affidavit. Investigators say Newsom's body smelled of gasoline.

Christian's body was found three days after the couple disappeared. Investigators say it was in a large plastic garbage can in Davidson's house on Chipman Street. Her body was in five separate dark trash bags.

There was evidence that Christian had been bound, physically assaulted and raped. Also, the Knox County medical examiner found apparent carpet fibers in her hair.

A woman interviewed by investigators said she was at the Chipman Street house while Christian was being held there. She said she witnessed Christian's mouth being cleaned with a bottle of some type of cleaner.

The woman also told investigators she saw clothes that were stained with blood and smelled of gas being put in the washing machine at the house.

Judge Bill Swann signed the warrant directing investigators to search the Chipman Street house for carpeting, an empty trash bag box, a washer and dryer and cleaning supplies used during the murders of Newsom and Christian.

Attorneys for Lemaricus Davidson hope to delay his day in court. They have filed a motion to designate this a complex case. Right now, the men have a right to a speedy trial.

If the motion is approved, the courts could delay the trial and give the defense more time to prepare.

Attorneys for Cobbins and Thomas say they plan to file similar motions.

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