KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- After a trial that lasted longer than a week, Eric Boyd was found guilty on all counts in connection to the crimes against Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom that occurred in January 2007.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on all 36 counts against Boyd on Aug. 13.
In 2018, years after he was sentenced on federal charges relating to their deaths, Eric Boyd was indicted on first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape charges in connection to the deaths of Christian and Newsom.
Opening arguments and testimony in the trial began on August 6.
Watch day one of the trial:
The trial began on Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. with an opening statement from Assistant District Attorney TaKisha Fitzgerald. She gave an outline of events leading up to the murders of Channon and Christopher which occurred in January 2007. Read a timeline of the murders here.
Fitzgerald's statement wrapped up around 10:15 a.m. Boyd's defense attorney, Clinton Frazier, told the jury anger and hate cannot determine their decision as to whether they should convict Boyd. Frazier questioned whether there was new evidence or if the prosecution's case rested solely on the testimony of George Thomas. Thomas is currently serving two life sentences plus 25 years for the torture, rape and murder of Christian and Newsom.
At 10:37 a.m., after Frazier ended his opening statement, the prosecution called its first witness, Kimberly Elkins, to the stand. She kept records with TVA Employees Credit Union.
At 10:44 a.m., Christian's best friend, Kara Hodge, was called to the stand. Hodge described the events leading up to the couple's disappearance. She said Newsom was supposed to pick Christian up for a party. After not hearing from the couple, Hodge said she and her other friends became worried. Hodge said Christian's mother reached out to her and said her daughter had not shown up for work and was not answering her phone.
Hodge went on to describe her ride with Christian's father, Gary, as they found Christian's Toyota 4Runner near Chipman Street, the location Christian's body was found at later. Hodge said decals and a vanity plate had been removed from the Toyota, the driver-side seat of the vehicle had been moved and the vehicle cleaned out.
After Hodge's testimony, Josh Anderson, Newsom's best friend, took the stand at 11:23 a.m. He told the courtroom that he had played golf with Christopher earlier the day of the murders and planned on going to a party later that night.
Anderson said he became involved in the search for Christian and Newsom a day after no one had heard from them. He described hearing about the discovery of Newsom's body and became emotional.
Judge Bob McGhee called a short recess at 11:48 a.m.
Testimony continued after a 10-minute recess until noon, when the courtroom broke for an hour lunch break.
After lunch, testimony began again with Xavier Jenkins. Jenkins was an employee with Waste Connections at the time of the killings. He testified that he saw the vehicle with the red stripe Boyd was accused of borrowing.
Jenkins said the suspects "mean mugged" him when they saw each other near his workplace. "They looked at me like 'what are you doing here?' and I looked back at them like 'what are you doing here? I work here."
Jenkins was asked if media coverage of the trial could have affected his testimony about the vehicle. "I don't like to hear any of the details. I don't watch anything about this trial...I don't know if I can make this clear. I don't want to hear any part of it," he told the courtroom.
After he finished, Boyd's cousin, Adrienne Mathis, was called to the stand. Prosecutors brought out transcripts from her previous testimony after Mathis said she "did not recall" her previous statements about Boyd.
"I was just repeating what I seen on paper," Mathis said of her previous testimony. Judge McGee denied the prosecution's request to introduce her previous testimony in court.
Prosecutors asked Mathis if she remembered testifying that she lent Boyd her car for the weekend during the time of the murders and whether she remembered claiming she found a sandwich bag of bullets inside the vehicle. Mathis said, "I don't recall." She then said she did not deny that the events happened, but that she simply did not remember.
At 2:31 p.m., Jerome Arnold, a resident of Chipman Street when the events occurred, recalled being inside his home watching television when he heard three pops. He said he thought they could have been fireworks at first, but did not hear anymore pops after the first three.
His short testimony was followed by Roy Thurman's. Thurman worked near the railroad tracks where Newsom's body was found. He said he was working that January in 2007 when he saw smoke coming from the tracks.
At 2:44 p.m., J.D. Ford made his testimony. Ford was the person who found Newsom's body near the tracks. He said he thought it was a piece of wood at first, but once he got closer, he noticed the burnt materials looked like a body.
The last testimony of the day was from former forensic scientist Gerald Smith, who took the stand at 3:36 p.m. Smith has an extensive background in investigating crime scenes. At the time of the murders, Smith worked with the Knoxville Police Department.
Smith responded to the scene on Reynolds Street on January 11, 2007, where one of the main suspects in the murders, Lemaricus Davidson, was captured.
Smith went through the evidence found at Reynolds Street such as a .22 caliber revolver which was not loaded. Smith showed the jury the evidence recovered in 2007 after the murders and discussed how the evidence would be preserved over the 12-year period since the Christian-Newsom murders. During the defense's cross examination, attorney Fraizer asked Smith about his past experience with crime scenes and his experience with DNA evidence.
Testimony wrapped up at around 4:20 p.m. and continued the next day on Wednesday morning at 9:42 a.m. after a slight delay.
Watch day two of the trial here:
The first person to take the stand on Wednesday was Ed Kingsbury, a former Knoxville Police Department officer, who testified he worked on the Christian-Newsom murder case back in 2007.
Kingsbury recalled a SWAT team apprehending Lemaricus Davidson. To find him, Kingsbury told the prosecution officials pulled records to find people connected to Davidson. He said he was captured by breaking a window and pulling him out of the home on Reynolds Street.
Kingsbury said the next suspect they were tasked to find was Eric Boyd. To find him, Kingsbury said they went to his mother's apartment, located at Ridgebrook Apartments, on January 11. They found Boyd coming down a staircase near his mother's apartment, Kingsbury said.
When asked why they were pursuing Boyd at the time, Kingsbury said, "We were hoping he would be able to tell us something to the whereabouts of Mr. Davidson."
Kingsbury said Boyd was "hesitant at first" to give them information on Davidson. However, Kingsbury said Boyd told them "he wasn't going to jail for [Davidson]" and then told investigators Davidson's location on Reynolds Street.
Boyd took investigators to the house on Reynolds Street, Kingsbury told the courtroom. At that point, Kingsbury said Boyd had not been arrested for anything and was let go after Davidson was released. However, Kingsbury said they were instructed to pick Boyd up again after 20 minutes.
They went back to Boyd's mother's apartment complex again. "As we pulled into Ridgebrook, he's walking up the sidewalk. We got lucky," Kingsbury said.
Under cross examination and after the defense gave Kingsbury a copy of his testimony from Boyd's federal trial, Kingsbury said Boyd did reveal that Davidson had a gun before law enforcement went to the home on Reynolds Street.
Boyd's attorney called that information "very helpful," to which Kingsbury replied, "Yes, sir."
Kingsbury's testimony wrapped up and Samantha Bowen, a booking officer from the Knox County Sheriff's Office, took the stand at 10 a.m.
At 10:07 a.m., Bernard Waggoner took the stand. He was a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time of the case.
Waggoner gave an overview of what was found at the house on Chipman Street. He said they were looking for evidence of the crimes that had been committed. He said they found .22 caliber bullet holes in the walls and ceiling.
At 10:54 a.m., Waggoner testified that Vanessa Coleman, a woman convicted in the crimes against Christian and Newsom, did not implicate Boyd during her interview with investigators. "She mentioned him, but did not incriminate," Waggoner said.
Joe Cox, a retired KPD officer, took the stand at 11:14 a.m. following a short recess and continued his testimony after a lunch break.
At 2:44 p.m., George Thomas, a man convicted in the murders of Christian and Newsom, took the stand and described his history with another man convicted in the case, Letalvis Cobbins, who is Davidson's half brother and how he met Boyd.
Thomas said on Jan. 6, 2007, he woke up and Cobbins told him that Davidson wanted "to do something," to which Thomas said he replied, "What is it he want to do?" Thomas said Cobbins told him Davidson wanted to "steal a car."
Thomas said he told Cobbins, "Okay."
He said that Davidson and Cobbins both left and came back with the victims, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.
"They brought Ms. Christian to the front bedroom," Thomas testified. "They left Mr. Newsom in the sun porch area."
Thomas told the court he did see Boyd that night when Davidson and Cobbins returned with the victims.
He described how Christian was dressed and that she was blindfolded, bound and being led by Davidson. He said that Boyd was behind Newsom after Davidson led Christian into the house.
Thomas testified that Newsom was blindfolded and bound like Christian.
Thomas said Davidson told him to go with Boyd about 15 minutes after the victims first arrived at the house on Chipman Street.
Thomas told the courtroom that Newsom, then Boyd and himself exited the Chipman Street house and went down to a vehicle outside. Boyd "was kind of leading him [Newsom] out," Thomas said.
Boyd drove them to an industrial building near the railroad tracks, Thomas claimed. Newsom's body was later found by a worker near the tracks.
Thomas said Boyd wanted him to help with Newsom. "At the time" Thomas said Newsom didn't have any shoes on, but he couldn't recall how his shoes came off.
"He tells me to help him get out and take Mr. Newsom out of the SUV," Thomas said of Boyd. "And I just told him 'no'."
Thomas said Boyd got out of the vehicle "opened the back door, grabbed Mr. Newsom and they walked towards the drainage ditch area." Thomas said he was still inside the vehicle in the passenger's seat while this occurred.
Thomas said Boyd walked Newsom beyond the ditch and near a group of trees. "I seen three...shots basically, and then he [Boyd] pulled him [Newsom]...behind the building. That's when he had came back and grabbed a can of gas." Thomas said Boyd went back over to where Newsom was with the gas can, which Thomas said could have already been in the car because no one brought it when he and Boyd were leaving with Newsom.
He claimed Boyd had a gun and had observed him with it before the day of the killings. "But I didn't see him with the gun in his hand that day."
"He goes back towards the area...and that's when, a couple of minutes later, I seen a bright whoosh," Thomas said.
Thomas said Boyd stayed there "for a second" then came back to the SUV. Boyd said "nothing about what had happened" when he got back to the vehicle.
He said they went back to the house on Chipman Street. Thomas said Boyd told Davidson something to the effect of "that's taken care of."
Thomas testified that Boyd was alone in the house with Christian at one point before leaving.
Thomas said the others "sat around and smoked weed" all night while Christian was tied up. "I was present when Ms. Christian was killed," but said he was not there when her body was put in a trash can. He said he didn't know for sure she had been raped but "part of me assumed."
His testimony wrapped up at 3:58 p.m. and court ended.
Court resumed the next day on Aug. 8.
Watch day three of the trial here:
The trial resumed with the cross examination of convicted killer George Thomas at 9:47 a.m.
Boyd's lawyer tried to shed doubt on Thomas' testimony. "It would be rather easy if you were in say, the living room, to hear if something is going on in the bedroom, the front bedroom, correct?"
Thomas stated yes, it would be, if the TV and radio weren't on.
"You didn't care what happened to Eric Boyd, did you?" Boyd's attorney asked.
"I didn't know him, so." Thomas replied and added that he hadn't known Christian or Newsom either.
"You said, 'F*** that white girl. She didn't mean anything to me'," the attorney told Thomas. "You said that, didn't you?"
"I didn't say that specifically," Thomas said. "That statement was taken out of context by Detective Norman."
The defense brought up the fact that Thomas had previously testified that Davidson and Boyd had taken Newsom in earlier investigations when the murders first happened, but during this trial, he told the courtroom that he and Boyd took Newsom away from the home.
Boyd's lawyer appeared to be frustrated with Thomas asking, "Do you understand that your deal with the state called for truthful testimony?" Thomas replied, "And that's what I have given."
The prosecution questioned Thomas again, and Thomas told the court that he told investigators that Boyd and Davidson would not let him leave the night that Christian and Newsom were killed.
Thomas ended his testimony and Jody Long took the stand. She testified that she drove Coleman, Cobbins and Thomas to Kentucky.
Former Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones took the stand at 10:54 a.m.
Newsom's mother, Mary Newsom, took the stand at 11 a.m. She went over the events of the day in January before her son and his girlfriend went missing. "When he came down the steps that night, that was the last time I saw him," Mary said. "Before he left, I said, 'Chris, I think you should get something to eat." She told the courtroom that Chris told her he was taking Channon out to eat before they went to a party.
When Channon didn't show up for work the next day, that's when the Newsoms began to get concerned, Mary said.
"Any other time, if I called Chris, he would call back," she said. But "he wouldn't call back" that day.
The next morning, she told the courtroom, was when the Newsom family found out their son was dead. "And after that, I just kind of lost it and didn't remember much of anything for the next two weeks."
The prosecution questioned her on Chris' items, including his partially burned license.
After Mary Newsom finished her testimony, Channon's mother, Deena Christian, took the stand at 11:30 a.m.
She told the courtroom that Channon worked two jobs and was a senior at the University of Tennessee. She said her daughter had old clothes in the back that she intended to donate. The clothes, Christian said, were gone when the car was recovered by the family and investigators. The car had been cleaned out, and the decals had been taken off the vehicle.
Channon "said, 'Love you, too, I'll see you later'," before leaving the house for work that day, Christian told the courtroom.
She said that was the last time she spoke to Channon, but she said her daughter called later that night, around 12:30 a.m. and spoke to her father, Gary Christian, and told him she planned to come home at 2:30 a.m. However, it was later found that she had called home from Chipman St.
Christian told the courtroom that she waited up for Channon, but fell asleep and woke up at 3:30 a.m. She said she called Channon's phone repeatedly, but no one picked up.
"I was starting to get a bad feeling," she told the courtroom. "I just had a gut feeling that something wasn't right."
Deena told the court that, at around 3 p.m. on Sunday, her daughter's boss called and claimed Channon had never arrived for work. She said an investigator was able to get U.S. Cellular, the Christian family's cell phone provider at the time, to reveal where Channon's phone had last "pinged" near Cherry St.
"I knew she wouldn't be anywhere near Cherry St. She would've been scared to death to be down there."
Deena told the court that her family and Channon's friends searched all day that Monday, January 8, for her daughter in abandoned homes and warehouses near Cherry St.
"I knew it was not going to be good for us either," Deena said of learning that Newsom's body had been discovered. "All I can remember is just screaming, and I fell apart," Deena said after learning about her daughter's death.
The court had a recess for lunch at noon, and KPD senior evidence tech Timothy Schade took the stand at 1 p.m.
The state showed the garbage bags that Channon's body was found wrapped in. Schade said some of the bags had prints from Lemaricus Davidson, but no prints from Boyd were found.
When Schade was cross examined, he confirmed that the prints found on the garbage bags belonged to Davidson and said that they did not find any evidence of Boyd.
Patricia Resig took the stand at 1:57 p.m. She was with KPD in 2007 and assisted with documenting the crime scene. She showed the bullets recovered from Newsom's back and skull. She told the court that the first two bullets were fired from the same gun.
After that, several experts took the stand and testified about materials found at the scene.
At 3:38 p.m., Davidson's ex-girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, took the stand.
Sutton lived with Davidson at the Chipman St house. She told the court that she and Davidson got into an argument and he assaulted her. She said she was the only person at the house with a vehicle until Boyd arrived.
Sutton testified that, on Thursday before the murders, she went to stay with two friends. She told the court that Davidson told her he had some clothes to give her, but she had to wait 30 minutes to come get them at the Chipman St. house. Sutton said she went to the home and saw Cobbins and Thomas. She said she tried to get into the bathroom, but either the door was locked or Davidson wouldn't let her. He continued to bar her from the bathroom.
Sutton said Davidson gave her clothes, jewelry and tried to give her money.
Sutton began to cry when the state showed Christian's clothes that Davidson had given her. Sutton said she later saw Davidson in a Toyota 4Runner with an orange power T and a North Face sticker.
During her cross examination, Sutton said she did not see Boyd at the house on Chipman St.
Court dismissed for the day at 4:08 p.m. and resumed at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Watch day four of the trial here:
At 9 a.m. Ricardo Leall took the stand, and shortly after, Timothy Gray took the stand. Both provided details on phone records for Davidson and Newsom respectively.
At 9:19 a.m., Danielle Lightfoot took the stand. She knew Boyd and Davidson. She told the courtroom her birthday was in January and that she typically celebrated all month long. In January 2007, she celebrated with Davidson and Boyd.
Lightfoot said on January 9 Davidson asked to spend the night at her apartment and told her he shot at a couple of people. Lightfoot said Boyd was there, too. She told the court that she later saw Davidson's face on the news. She said she asked Davidson what he'd done and Davidson replied that his brother had done something.
She said she allowed Boyd to stay at her apartment for the day while she was in Atlanta. "I trusted Boyd because he was a neighbor for a while," Lightfoot said.
At 9:40 a.m., Randall Nelson took the stand. He worked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as a forensic scientist for 30 years.
Nelson analyzed and showed the jury a white tank top that belonged to Christian. He said he sampled the top to see if there was any bleach on the shirt. The state said the suspects poured bleach down Christian's throat in an attempt to destroy evidence. Nelson confirmed his tests found bleach on the shirt.
Jennifer Millsaps took the stand at 10:53 a.m. She is employed by the TBI as a special agent forensic scientist.
The judge excused the jury for something he wanted to take up.
One of the items submitted for testing was a stained clothing item of Boyd. Boyd's sperm was found on the clothing item. The clothing item also had sperm of an unknown person. It does not belong to any suspects in the case or Christian. Fraizer tried to stop Millsaps from discussing the clothing item, saying it was not relevant.
"Given the rumors and innuendos in the community with regards to Mr. Boyd, I don't think this is relevant," Fraizer said in regards to the stained clothing item.
The judge ruled in the state's favor and allowed the evidence. "For the state of inclusion, I'm going to allow the state to ask the expert witness about all the evidence she found," the judge said.
Millsaps said Davidson's DNA was found within Christian's sexual assault kit. Her oral swab of Christian contained DNA of Cobbins, and her white tank top had sperm from Cobbins, Millsaps continued.
Millsaps told the court that Christian's striped shirt revealed the presence of Cobbins' DNA and sperm, and the floral fabric found with Christian's body had DNA from Coleman and showed sperm from Cobbins.
Millsaps examined Boyd's clothing. His yellow shirt and belt contained DNA of an individual other than Boyd. Christian, Newsom, Cobbins, Davidson, Thomas, Coleman and Sutton were excluded as contributes to the DNA found.
According to Millsaps, an inflatable bed in the Chipman St. house showed the presence of blood. The DNA of Davidson, Sutton and Christian were found on the bed. Millsaps said the only items she found Boyd's DNA on were his clothing and the gun holster found in his cousin's vehicle.
Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan took the stand after Millsaps at 1:37 p.m. She is the Chief Medical Examiner.
Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan began with a review of the discovery of Newsom's body and his autopsy. Pictures of his body were displayed to the courtroom. Eighty percent of his body was burned with extensive blistering. There were little remnants of clothing left. Newsom's head was covered in a sweatshirt.
Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan told the court that there was an odor of accelerant on his body. She also said a white sock was placed in Newsom's mouth and a blindfold was placed on his eyes. It had some blood on it due to wounds. "He was gagged then set on fire," she said.
The jury was then shown pictures of Newsom's gunshot wounds.
Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said there was tearing, bruising and lacerations of Newsom's anus. "That was indication of damage," she told the courtroom. "Plus, on the inside there were some additional tears and additional bruising."
The anal injuries occurred one to two hours before Newsom was shot, she said.
"The main cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, manner of death was homicide," she said.
The anal injuries occurred one to two hours before Newsom was shot, she said. She confirmed that Newsom was raped before she moved on to Christian's autopsy.
The jury was shown pictures of Christian's body in the trash can found at the Chipman St. house. Her body was folded and tied in a fetal position, Mileusnic-Polchan said. The lower part of Christian's body was not clothed. Most of the blood found came from the lower half.
Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian's body showed no evidence of strangulation, but she suffocated due to the plastic bag, her position and the closed trash can.
She told the courtroom Christian was brutally sexually assaulted orally, vaginally and anally before she died and was alive for some time after that trauma.
Under cross examination, Mileusnic-Polchan said "she did not die immediately. It could've taken minutes, maybe hours."
Court ended for the day at 3:22 p.m. and resumed on Monday morning at 10 a.m.
Watch day five of the trial here:
Day five of the trial began with the prosecution. They brought the federal testimony of Boyd's cousin, Adrienne Mathis, to the record. During her testimony at Boyd's federal trial in 2008, Mathis testified she lent Boyd her, a Pontiac Sunbird, car for the weekend during the time of the murders and whether she remembered claiming she found a sandwich bag of bullets inside the vehicle. However, during Boyd's state trial, on Aug. 6 she testified that she didn't remember her federal testimony.
After the state brought Mathis' previous testimony to light, prosecution rested and the jury left the room.
Upon their exit, Boyd's attorney, Frazier, called on Judge McGhee to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence. The state claimed that, without Boyd, the suspects would not have been able to get the victims.
Despite Frazier's attempts, Judge McGhee did not dismiss the case. "It is a fair inference that Boyd was a part of the entire matter and is responsible, criminally responsible for everything that happened," Judge McGhee said. Boyd declined to testify.
At 10:32 a.m., ADA Phil Morton gave the closing argument for the prosecution. Morton pointed out testimony from Xavier Jenkins, who claimed he saw activity at the Chipman St. house, Christian's car, the Pontiac Sunbird parked behind Christian's car and four black men in that car.
The state discussed the condition of Christian and Newsom's bodies, "Ladies and gentleman, you have seen images you cannot unsee. You have to see the photos to understand the gravity."
The prosecution also pointed out criminal responsibility. "It is not necessary that you find the defendant was present of took physical part in the crime...encouragement of the principal offender is sufficient," Morton said. The state's closing argument ended after more than an hour.
The defense began its closing argument at a 11:30 a.m. with attacks against Thomas' testimony, claiming Thomas was so loyal to Cobbins that he lied to protect his friend and place blame on Boyd. "He is so loyal to him that he doesn't implicate Cobbins in the crimes." He pointed out that Thomas claimed to never see or hear anything that happened at the Chipman St. house. "It just doesn't make any sense," Frazier told the jury.
At 1:53 p.m., the jury left for deliberation and went home at 5:30 p.m. without coming to a conclusion. Court resumed on Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Watch day six of the trial here
On Tuesday morning the jury returned to court and resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. They deliberated for several hours before pausing at 11:47 a.m. to ask a question of the judge.
The jury asked, "For especially aggravated robbery, if we do not believe [Channon and Chris] were harmed during the carjacking, does the rape and murder that occurred later count as bodily harm in connection to the robbery?"
The question was asked in regard to the especially aggravated robbery charge (count 20).
The judge informed the jury that the charge of especially aggravated robbery refers only to the time in which the accused completed steps to obtain possession or control of the victim's property.
The judge said if the harm happened after all the property was taken, than it is not especially aggravated robbery.
At 2 p.m., the jury reached a verdict and reentered the courtroom.
The jury found Boyd guilty on all counts, including first degree murder of Newsom and murder of Christian. There were gasps in the courtroom when the first count was read.
Boyd was found not guilty on count 19, the especially aggravated robbery. Instead, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated robbery. This is the count the judge answered questions about earlier in the day.
Boyd was also found guilty in the rape of Newsom and Christian.
By 2:13 p.m., the jury had announced they had found Boyd guilty of all 36 counts.
Before dismissing the jury, Judge McGhee said, "This has been a rough period of time for everyone."
Boyd was automatically sentenced to life with the possibility of parole on two counts of felony first degree murder. Judge McGhee set sentencing for the other charges on September 18.
The families of the victims spoke after the trial. Channon Christian's father, Gary Christian said, "[Boyd] was just as much a part of the death of my daughter as any other one."
Boyd was automatically sentenced to life with the possibility of parole on two counts of felony first degree murder. Judge McGhee set sentencing for the other charges on September 18.
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