Tennessee Supreme Court denies appeal in 2007 Knox County torture slayings

By: - March 29, 2022 11:17 am
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Tennessee Supreme Court this week shot down an appeal bid by the fifth and final suspect to be convicted in the 2007 torture slayings of a Knox County couple.

The high court’s decision–made public late Monday–to deny Eric Boyd another appeal of his convictions effectively ends what was a 12-year quest by the families of slaying victims Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, to put him behind bars in the killings.

Boyd was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury in August 2019 of kidnapping, raping and killing the couple and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in the slayings and another 90 years on top of that for related, underlying crimes, including especially aggravated kidnapping, robbery and rape.

The Knox County couple were preparing to go on a date in January 2007 when they were carjacked and kidnapped and taken to the Chipman Street house of Lemaricus Davidson. Both were bound, gagged and blindfolded.

Newsom was raped, shot three times and his body set afire alongside nearby railroad tracks within hours of the kidnapping. Christian was held captive inside the Chipman Street house for 36 hours, repeatedly raped, forced to swallow bleach in a bid to destroy DNA evidence of those rapes, and then stuffed alive inside a trash can in the kitchen. She slowly suffocated to death.

Boyd was a suspect from the start but insisted he wasn’t anywhere near Washington Ridge Apartments, where the kidnapping took place, or Chipman Street when the crimes occurred.

Federal prosecutors mounted a successful case against Boyd for hiding Davidson out after the killings, and he was sentenced to 18 years. State prosecutors, meanwhile, opted not to seek an indictment against Boyd in the slayings.

Davidson and three others–Letalvis Cobbins, Davidson’s brother; Vanessa Coleman, Cobbins’ girlfriend; and George Thomas, Cobbins’ friend–each admitted they were inside the Chipman Street house while the couple was being held captive, but all denied any active role in the crimes.

All four were indicted in the slayings and underlying crimes, including rape and kidnapping. Davidson, Cobbins and Thomas were convicted of all crimes committed against the couple, while Coleman was acquitted of crimes involving Newsom and deemed a facilitator only in the crimes committed against Christian.

Davidson is now on death row. Cobbins is serving life without parole. Coleman is serving 35 years.

Thomas was serving a 127-year sentence in the case–until he secretly agreed in 2018 to testify against Boyd in return for a 50-year sentence. Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen then did what her predecessor refused for years to do–seek a murder indictment against Boyd.

Thomas’ agreement to testify came as the direct result of lobbying by Newsom’s parents, Hugh and Mary Newsom. Newsom’s parents had long believed it was Boyd who raped their son, put a dog collar around his neck and forced him to walk barefoot to nearby railroad tracks, where he was then executed. They enlisted the help of a private investigator, repeatedly begged prosecutors for an indictment and directly appealed to both Cobbins and Thomas to turn on their co-defendants.


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Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield is an investigative journalist with more than 33 years of experience, specializing in legal affairs, policing, public corruption, environmental crime and civil rights violations. Her journalism has been honored as some of the best in the nation, earning recognition from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards, the Green Eyeshade Awards, the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Managing Editors Association, the First Amendment Center and many other industry organizations. Her work has led to criminal charges against wrongdoers, changes in state law and citations in legal opinions and journals. She was married to the love of her life for 28 years and is now a widow and proud mother of two successful children of good character and work ethic.