On the night of January 6, 2007, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom disappeared as their friends expected them to arrive at a party. Knoxville police later said they had been carjacked. The bound body of Chris was found the next day 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 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.
LeMaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, and George Thomas were arrested a few days later and charged with the murders of the couple. Later, Cobbins' then girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman, was also charged with murder.
Cobbins was found guilty of Christian's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on August 26, 2009. Davidson was found guilty of murdering Christian and Newsom and sentenced to the death penalty on October 30, 2009. Thomas was found guilty of murdering Christian and Newsom and sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 10, 2009. Coleman was convicted of lesser charges of facilitating Christian's murder, kidnapping rape and theft on May 13, 2010 and sentenced in July to 53 years in prison. Another man, Eric Boyd, was convicted in federal court in October 2008 as an accessory after the jury agreed that he helped Davidson hide following the murders. Boyd was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a federal appeals court upheld his conviction in 2011.
The judge who presided over all the trials, Richard Baumgartner, resigned in March 2011, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and admitted he'd become an addict who bought drugs from a felon under his jurisdiction. In December 2011, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood granted new trials finding that Baumgartner was impaired during the originals.
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, however, recused Judge Blackwood in three of the four cases, saying there was a "reasonable basis" to question his impartiality because of outbursts that took place during court proceedings related to the murders. Special Judge Walter Kurtz of Davidson County was appointed to oversee the retrials of Cobbins, Davidson and Thomas.
Judge Blackwood was allowed to remain on the bench for the retrial of Vanessa Coleman. Her retrial took place in November 2012. She was convicted on 13 of 17 counts in the case. In February 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison, with the possibility of parole in four and half years. She later requested a third trial.
In January 2013, Special Judge Walter Kurtz reviewed the requests of Davidson, Cobbins and Thomas for new trials. Davidson's attorney argued that a jury praise service influenced their decision towards his client. On January 15, George Thomas was granted a new trial, while Davidson and Cobbins were denied new trials.