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Vanessa Coleman sentenced for her role in the Christian-Newsom case

9:06 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has sentenced Vanessa Coleman to 35 consecutive years for her role in the 2007 murder, torture and rape of Channon Christian.

Having served six years, Coleman is eligible for parole in four-and-a-half years.

Here is the breakdown:

  • 25 years for facilitation of felony murder
  • Six years for facilitation of aggravated kidnapping
  • Four years for facilitation of anal rape.

During the sentencing, Judge Blackwood said the crimes were so horrific they outweigh any mitigating factors. He categorized Coleman as a dangerous offender, even though she was a first-time offender.

"This is a horrible crime. Horrible, senseless, cruel-- every word you can use to describe this event," said Blackwood. "This is the most horrible I have seen, and I've seen some horrible ones in my lifetime."

In their victim impact statements before the sentencing, Gary and Deena Christian talked directly to Coleman, the judge and the entire courtroom. They told Coleman what these crimes have done to their family. They pleaded with the judge to give Coleman the maximum sentence. In their statements, Deena focused on the life Channon never got to live, and Gary focused on the crimes committed against his daughter.

"You say anger management and rehab should give you a get out of jail free card. In my eyes, what you did has nothing to do with anger. You have to be possessed with evil, pure evil to do what you did," said Deena.

"I cannot find it anywhere in my heart or my soul, written or spoken anywhere, where you deserve mercy. My family has now sat through two trials. It amazes me how two attorneys could come up with so many excuses when there is none. Both times guilty, not by 12 people but 24. Gotta figure some way there's some guilt," said Gary.

A judge granted Coleman's retrial because former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner, who first heard the case, admitted to prescription abuse while on the bench. Baumgartner resigned his position in 2011, after pleading guilty to one count of official misconduct.

During Coleman's initial trial, Judge Baumgartner sentenced her to 53 years in prison for 17 convictions of facilitating Christian's kidnapping, murder, torture and rape.

In Coleman's November 2012 retrial, a jury found her guilty on 13 of 17 counts of facilitating crimes against Christian. According to state law, Coleman could not be sentenced to more than her initial 53 year sentence. She faced a minimum sentence of 15 years and eligibility for parole.

Vanessa Coleman is one of five defendants convicted in the case.

Last month Judge Walter Kurtz ruled that George Thomas will receive a retrial. No date for the new trial has been set.

The judge denied new trials to Lemaricus Davidson and his step-brother, Letalvis Cobbins. Davidson is on death row for his role in the murders. Cobbins is serving a life sentence.

A fifth defendant, Eric Boyd, is serving an 18-year federal prison sentence for his role in the carjacking. 

Editor's note: The original story reporting Coleman's sentence stated that she was sentenced to 41 years. The judge misspoke on the stand while clarifying the sentence.  We apologize for any confusion.

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