Abduction, rape, torture, and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were tragic events that unfolded in Knoxville, Tennessee. Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were a young couple who had recently embarked on a romantic relationship. On the evening of January 6, 2007, they went on a date to a local restaurant. Before heading forward they stopped at a friend’s apartment for a little while.
As they were heading home in Christian’s SUV later that night, their lives took a horrifying turn. Three black males approached them and forcibly abduct them, binding them, blindfolding them, and silence their voices. The abduction went unnoticed due to the late hour, the darkness of the parking lot, and its isolated location. One of the abductors, Lemaricus Devall or ‘Slim’ Davidson, transported Newsom and Christian to his residence on Chipman Street. Inside the house, two additional individuals, a woman and her boyfriend, were present.
Newsom, still unable to see or speak, was brutally assaulted. They subjected him to repeated acts of violence, including sexual abuse with various objects. Eventually, they dragged him, barefoot, outside the house and threw him into the SUV. They drove to a remote area near the railroad tracks. They mercilessly shot him, severed his genitals, doused him in gasoline, and set him ablaze.
From left to right: Eric Boyd, George Thomas, Slim Davidson, Rome Cobbins (Slims brother) and Vanessa Coleman (Rome’s Girlfriend)
Meanwhile, Channon Christian remained captive in the Chipman Street house under the watch of Cobbins and his girlfriend, Coleman. Despite her terrified state, Channon tried to maintain a semblance of civility toward Cobbins. Desperately seeking a way out of her nightmarish situation, she asked for water and requested a cigarette from her purse. However, her pleas were met with further abuse as Cobbins raped her and forced her to engage in oral sex.
Following Newsom’s murder, the assailants returned to the house and subjected Channon to prolonged hours of rape and brutal beatings. Slim Davidson called everyone into the kitchen, where they watched him strangle Channon. Although she had lost consciousness by that point, she was still alive. Coleman checked for a pulse, hesitated briefly, and panicked when she realized Channon was still breathing. Slim Davidson berated her, and eventually, they confirmed that Channon was still alive. They continued to strangle her. They secured her head and body with large trash bags, and disposed of her in a black trash bin. Channon endured a slow and agonizing death as she suffocated.
As time passed without any sign of Channon’s return, her parents grew increasingly worried. They set out to search for their daughter and Christopher Newsom. With assistance from Channon’s mobile phone provider, they located her abandoned Toyota 4-Runner. It was two blocks away from the Chipman Street house on the following Monday. Inside the vehicle, they discovered an envelope containing fingerprints. These fingerprints led the police to Lemaricus Davidson. The address was 2316 Chipman Street. Authorities arrived at the location on Tuesday, January 9. They found the house unoccupied but uncovered Channon’s lifeless body in a bin in the kitchen.
The medical examiner’s testimony revealed the horrifying extent of Channon’s torture leading up to her death. She endured severe injuries to her genitals, anus, and mouth, including rape with an unidentified object and head trauma. The attackers attempted to remove DNA evidence by scrubbing her body with bleach. They poured it down in her throat while she was still alive. They bound her with curtains and bedding. Then they covered her face with a bin liner. After that they placed her body in five large bin bags. Finally concealed⁵ her inside a residential waste disposal unit. Channon’s slow suffocation marked the end of her life.
A grand jury indicted four suspects on counts of capital murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and theft. At the state level, three of the defendants, Letalvis D. Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, and George Thomas, had prior felony convictions. Lemaricus Davidson sentenced to death by lethal injection. While Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas received life sentences without the possibility of parole. Vanessa Coleman, found guilty of facilitating the crimes, sentenced to 53 years in prison. Eric Dewayne Boyd faced federal charges as an accessory after the fact to carjacking and received an 18 year prison sentence. The state convictions were later set aside due to misconduct by the presiding judge, who was subsequently disbarred. Retrials were planned, pending appeals in all cases except Coleman’s. However, in May 2012, the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated the motion for new trials.
- George Geovonni “Detroit” Thomas, aged 24, faced a total of 46 charges. These included 16 counts of felony murder related to the abduction, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and theft of Christian and Newsom. 2 counts of premeditated murder. 2 counts of especially aggravated robbery. 4 counts of especially aggravated abduction. 20 counts of aggravated rape and 2 counts of theft.
- Letalvis “Rome” Cobbins, aged 28, faced the same 46 charges as Thomas. Additionally he got charges of assaulting a correctional officer while in custody awaiting trial. In 2003, Cobbins had previously been convicted of third-degree attempted robbery in New York state. He and Davidson were brothers. Cobbins received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
- Lemaricus Devall “Slim” Davidson, aged 30, faced the same 46 charges as Thomas. Davidson recently completed a five year sentence in Tennessee. It was prior a felony conviction of carjacking and aggravated robbery in August 2006. He got sentence to death.
- Vanessa Coleman, aged 18, was arrested by the Lebanon Police Department in Lebanon, Kentucky. She faced 40 state charges in Tennessee. Coleman indicted on 12 counts. They include felony of abduction, murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and theft of Christian and Newsom. 1 count of premeditated murder (of Christian only). 1 count of especially aggravated robbery (of Newsom only). 4 counts of especially aggravated abduction. 20 counts of aggravated rape and 2 counts of theft. She received sentence to 53 years in prison on July 30, 2010. She described her time in Knoxville as “an adventure.”
- Eric DeWayne “E” Boyd, aged 34, arrested in connection with the fatal carjacking. But not indicted by the Knox County grand jury. Boyd faced federal charges in United States district court as an accessory. The fact for aiding the suspects in evading the police. Thomas and Cobbins accused Boyd of rape and murder, leading to a search warrant for his DNA. However, the accusations did not result in state charges against Boyd. He is currently serving an 18-year federal prison sentence for his conviction as an accessory to the carjacking.