The true crime story of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom is more than just a carjacking gone wrong. This horrific murder involves the rape, torture, and slaying of an innocent young couple from Knoxville, Tennessee. Unfortunately, the real story of what happened inside the house on Chipman Street is not entirely clear. Five suspects were identified and subsequently pointed the finger at one another, never taking the blame for the part each played in the brutal crime.
With trial coverage, transcripts, defendant statements, and interviews, we can piece together what authorities believe occurred over several days in early January 2007.
The Victims: Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom
Channon Gail Christian was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, on April 29, 1985. She lived in Louisiana as a child before moving with her family to Tennessee in 1997. Channon graduated from Farragut High School in 2003. After that attended the University of Knoxville, where she was to major in sociology. She was set to graduate in December 2007, less than one year from the day she was murdered.
Hugh Christopher Newsom, who also went by Chris, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on September 21, 1983. He graduated from Halls High in 2002 and attended Pellissippi State Technical Community College. Chris enjoyed playing baseball and developed his skills at community college to become a carpenter.
At the time of their murders, Channon and Chris had only been dating for a short time. On January 6, 2007, the couple planned to go out for dinner and attend a friend’s party afterward. Channon got ready at a friend’s house and waited for Chris to pick her up. He arrived around 8 p.m., and the couple walked to Channon’s car in the apartment complex’s parking lot.
Channon got into the driver’s seat while Chris stood at the driver’s side door, hugging Channon. As the couple sat in the parking lot, a vehicle pulled up containing a group of five individuals: Lemaricus Davidson, his half-brother Letalvis Cobbins, Cobbin’s girlfriend Vanessa Coleman, George Thomas, and Eric Boyd.
The group ambushed the couple at gunpoint, forced them into the back of the car, tied them up, and blindfolded them. They then took the couple to Lemaricus’s rental home on Chipman Street. This brief ride would be just the start of their horrifying nightmare.
Two Murders of Young Couple
Once the group had arrived at Lemaricus Davidson’s home, the couple was brought into the house. Both Channon and Chris were raped during their time in the Chipman Street home. Chris was sodomized with an unknown object and was raped by at least one of the assailants. He was then brought to a nearby set of railroad tracks, where he was forced to walk barefoot to where authorities would eventually find his body.
When Chris was murdered, he was wearing only a shirt and underwear, his hands were bound behind his back, and his feet were bound together. He was also blindfolded with a bandana and gagged with a sock.
The next day, police would find Chris’s body wrapped in a comforter, doused in gasoline, and set on fire.
Meanwhile, Channon remained tied up back at the Chipman Street house. She was brought into Lemaricus’s bedroom and savagely and repeatedly raped vaginally, rectally, and orally. She was also attacked in her genital region, creating wounds caused by either being kicked or beaten with an object. Channon would also suffer two blows to her head.
Toward the end of her time in the home, bleach was sprayed down her throat to destroy DNA evidence. She was then hogtied using strips of fabric from a bedding set. The group then wrapped her head in a white plastic grocery bag and encased her body in black garbage bags. Channon was then stuffed into a trash can, where she was left to suffocate and eventually die.
Channon died sometime between the afternoon of January 7 and the afternoon of January 8. While Channon was suffocating in the trash can, Lemaricus spent time with his girlfriend, even gifting her some of Christian’s belongings. He was also seen wearing Chris’s shoes and using his cell phone.
Channon and Christopher Murder Investigation
After Channon and Chris did not show up at the party, their friends began calling and texting them but received no response. Around 11 p.m. on January 6, two of Chris’s friends went to the apartment complex where the couple had been kidnapped and discovered Chris’s truck still in the parking lot. However, they were unable to locate Channon’s SUV.
Several witnesses came forward with information that helped police determine a timeline for the murders. A driver for Waste Connections, also located on Chipman Street, arrived at work around 12:30 a.m. on January 7 and found 2316 Chipman Street quite busy. The lights were on, and there was a 4Runner in front of the house. The witness also stated that the 4Runner slowly droll past him, and he saw four black men inside the vehicle.
Another witness who lived just one block from the Chipman Street home heard three “pops” from the direction of the train tracks around 1:45 a.m.
Channon did not show up at work on January 7, and after failing to answer her mother’s and friends’ calls, they began filing missing person reports and checking local hospitals. Due to Channon being an adult, the police would only step in to help look for her after 24 hours, forcing her parents to look on their own.
Search for Evidence
Her parents also sought assistance from Channon’s mobile phone provider, learning that her phone had last pinged at a Cherry Street phone tower. After searching the Cherry Street area, Channon’s family and friends discovered her abandoned Toyota 4Runner between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on January 8.
When authorities checked Channon’s vehicle, they found that several items were missing, including a teddy bear and some photographs that she kept in there, as well as an iPod and phone charger. They also discovered the front seats pushed back, which Channon wouldn’t do as she couldn’t reach the pedals. Channon was also known for maintaining her vehicle, and the car floorboard was covered in mud.
Other things in the vehicle that her family noticed were different. The stickers Channon had on the outside windows had been removed, and there was a pack of Newport cigarettes in the car, but neither Channon nor Chris smoked them. An envelope was also recovered from the car with Lemaricus Davidson’s fingerprints on them.
When police arrived at 2316 Chipman Street on January 9, no one was there.
When searching the house, police found several items that belonged to Channon and Chris, including Channon’s purse, clothing she kept in her vehicle, shoes, a camera, photographs, and an iPod. The house also contained Chris’s driver’s license and baseball caps. Shell casings found in the home matched the bullets that were used to kill Chris.
Detention of killers
With evidence piling up, the police began their search for Lemaricus. Eric Boyd directed the police to a vacant house where Lemaricus hid. On January 11, Lemaricus was arrested and interrogated about the murders. During this time, he told authorities five different stories of what happened, stating that he had left his house on Friday and knew nothing of the crimes.
Later, he told police that Letalvis and Eric had arrived at his house around 10 p.m. on Friday or Saturday and informed him that they had carjacked a couple and were tied up in the vehicle. After seeing the victims, he wanted no part and left to smoke marijuana. He claims he returned home about 20 minutes later to find Channon in his home, telling him that she didn’t want to die. Lemaricus claims that he never raped Channon.
George Thomas, Letalvis Cobbins, and Vanessa Colman were arrested on January 11 in Lebanon, Kentucky. Police seized a purse that contained several of Channon’s belongings, including a change purse and cosmetic bag. They also took a computer where George and Letalvis had been watching news coverage of the murders. Both Letalvis and his girlfriend Vanessa claim that they were held hostage by the other defendants and played no part in the carjacking, rape, or murder of the couple.
A Sentence for Five Murderers
With ample evidence and both bodies discovered, trial dates were set for the perpetrators. Trials for Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, Eric Boyd, George Thomas, and Vanessa Coleman began in 2009.
George Thomas was found guilty on multiple counts and sentenced to life without parole on December 8, 2009. Eric Boyd was found guilty of being an accessory to carjacking. He was sentenced on April 16, 2008, to a maximum of 18 years in prison. He was the only assailant not initially charged with murder. However, this changed in 2018. George Thomas secretly agreed to testify against Eric Boyd in return for a 50-year sentence. Eric was ultimately sentenced to two life sentences back-to-back.
Letalvis Cobbins was found guilty and initially faced the death penalty. However, on August 25, 2009, he was given life without parole. His half-brother, Lemaricus Davidson, was found guilty and received the death penalty on October 28, 2009. In June 2010, he was also sentenced to 80 years for additional charges related to the murders. Lemaricus’s sentence is to be served consecutively with the death penalty.
The last to face trial was Vanessa Coleman, who had been granted immunity for the carjacking. However, for the part she played in the rapes and murders, she was sentenced on May 13, 2010, to 53 years in prison.
Channon and Christopher Murder Aftermath
While Channon and Christopher may be gone, they are never forgotten. In the aftermath of the murders, foundations were established for both Channon and Chris. The Channon Gail Christian Foundation gives a scholarship each year to a female student attending the University of Tennessee. A baseball scholarship is also given each year to students at the high school that Chris attended in honor of him.
After the murders, the Chipman Street house was destroyed, and a memorial was built to honor the couple. In 2014, two new laws were passed, including the Channon Christian Act and the Chris Newsom Act. The Channon Christian Act was passed to prevent accused individuals from painting victims in a negative light after one of Channon’s murderers accused her of coming to buy drugs, which was a false claim. The Chris Newsom Act was passed to prevent re-trials in cases like this.
When speaking to the media after Eric Boyd was found guilty of the murders of Channon and Chris, Gary Christian, Channon’s father, spoke out, saying, “We’ll never get justice on this earth, not for what they did. But I think we got them all… and that’s what I promised my daughter. When asked if he felt closure, he said, “No, but I think we’re getting close.”
Sadly, only a few year later Tennessee saw another horrific crime with the murder of Holly Bobo in the small town of Parsons.