KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Twelve years after the murder of a young Knox County couple, Eric D. Boyd, 47, faces charges including kidnapping, rape and murder. He's accused of having a direct role in the attacks on Chris Newsom, 23, and Channon Christian, 21, in January 2007.
Wednesday marks day two of his trial. Get full coverage here.
Court ends for the day at about 4:09 p.m. The trial will continue Friday at 9:00 a.m.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM TODAY
- The defense goes through the interview Thomas did with police in Kentucky. Attorney Frazier tries to poke holes in Thomas' testimony from yesterday compared to what he previously said to police.
- Thomas denies ever hearing or seeing Christian or Newsom getting raped.
- The defense tells Thomas his deal with the State is to give a truthful testimony which Thomas responds he has done.
- Thomas says he does not know what happened in the drainage ditch near the tracks before Boyd killed Newsom. This means Boyd could have raped Newsom then, but now, Thomas says he cannot be sure if Boyd raped him or not.
- Jody Long, the next witness, gave Coleman, Cobbins, and Thomas a ride to Kentucky after the murders in exchange for drugs. She did not know what they had done until they got to Kentucky, and she saw their mugshots on TV.
- After Long, Ethel Freeman (now Ethel Jones) takes the stand. She is the woman Davidson bought furniture from but never paid. She identified the curtain she gave Davidson which is the same curtain Newsom and Christian were tied up with. She also got stuck behind the train on Cherry Street with the engineer that found Newsom's body.
- After a short recess, former Knox County Sheriff JJ Jones takes the witness stand. Jones did the initial interview with the suspects in Kentucky, including Thomas. The State is using Jones to make Thomas seem more credible because he says he thought Thomas was the most truthful one that he talked to during those initial statements.
- The next witness is late because court is moving faster than anticipated, so Mary Newsom, Chris Newsom's mother, takes the stand instead. She talks about Chris, what he was doing that Saturday, and what happened after his body was identified. Her testimony is short, and the defense chooses not to cross-examine.
- Deena Christian, Channon Christian's mother, takes the stand next. Her testimony is much longer than Mary Newsom's. She also talks about her child and what Channon was doing the day of the crime. She tells the court that Channon kept her car clean because her father was strict about it and that she always answered her phone or at least, called back quickly. She adds that authorities would not help because the couple had not been missing that long and were young. Once she learned that Channon's phone last pinged near Cherry Street, she knew something was wrong because she said her daughter would be afraid to go there. The defense also chooses not to cross-examine her.
- The most profound part of Deena's testimony was at the end when the State presented her with photos of Channon's belongings that were found in the Chipman house. There were many photos with many belongings in each one. This seemed to get some visible reactions from jurors.
- After an hour-long recess for lunch, the State has Timothy Schade take the witness stand to discuss the fingerprint DNA in the case. Davidson's fingerprint was found on an envelope that was in Christian's 4Runner. Schade says he did not find any fingerprints or DNA at the scene that matched Eric Boyd or George Thomas.
- The State moves onto other evidence like the trash bags that Channon's body was wrapped in. Investigators were able to get Davidson's prints off of some of the trash bags. Lastly, the trash can Christian was found in is placed into evidence.
- Patricia Resig takes the stand next. She worked for Knoxville Police on the case in 2007 but is now retired. She tells the State that the Chipman Street house was 805.8 square feet. By showing how small the house was, the State can say Boyd had to have been involved in some way, if he was inside when the crimes happened. On the other side, the defense can say Thomas had to have heard something going on if he was inside when the crimes happened. Yesterday, Thomas said he never heard anyone getting raped or tortured.
- She is also used by the State as an expert witness in guns. She says the bullet that was recovered from Newsom's back and one recovered from his skull was fired from the same gun. She says she knows the bullets come from a .22 caliber but cannot tell if they were fired from an automatic gun or a revolver.
- Laura Hodge takes the stand at about 3:17 p.m. She works for TBI and is used by the State as an expert witness on fire debris analysis. Her analysis reveals that the evidence from the scene contains evaporated gasoline. Chris' body was set on fire after he was killed. There were numerous gas cans found in the Chipman Street house.
- Daphne Sutton, the ex-girlfriend of ringleader Lemaricus Davidson, takes the stand at 3:38 p.m. Her uncle is a Knoxville police officer. At one point, she lived with Davidson but not at the time of the crime. She says she moved out because he was often violent with her. She was extremely emotional when the State presented her with the items Davidson tried to give her which she later learned were Christian's belongings. She says she was with Davidson when she found out that Christian's body was inside the Chipman house. She says she told him to leave and drove him to Boyd's apartment complex. She adds that the crime scene video of the Chipman house shows the trash can where Christian was found and that the gas cans were not where she usually kept them.
- In cross-examination, Sutton says she first lied to law enforcement about what she knew about Davidson and the crime. She says she is not sure when she finally told the truth but believes it was the third time she was questioned by authorities.
- She says she never saw Boyd at the Chipman house at the time all of this was happening, but says she was the only person who had a car at the Chipman Street home until Boyd showed up when she was not there. Although, she says her car was not working at the time.
Eric Boyd Trial | Day Three
The defense crosses George Thomas
The third day of the Eric Boyd trial began at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday with Boyd's defense attorney Clinton Frazier cross-examing convicted killer George Thomas. Frazier went through the interview Thomas did with police in Kentucky. Thomas denied ever hearing anyone rape Christian, but the defense believes anyone in the small house on Chipman Street would have heard something like that happening. Frazier told Thomas his deal with the State was to give a truthful testimony which Thomas responded that he did. The defense ended questioning, and TaKisha Fitzgerald began questioning Thomas on his Kentucky statement.
Thomas said he and Cobbins did not plan their statements to police. He said his initial statement was different because he didn't want to be incriminated. Thomas also said he told investigators he could not leave the Chipman Street house because Boyd and Davidson would not let him leave. He said he does not know what happened to Christian and Newsom before they got to the house. The State was trying to make time in the timeline for the rapes. Thomas said he did not know what happened in the drainage ditch near the tracks before Boyd killed Newsom. This means Boyd could have raped Newsom then, but now, Thomas is saying he cannot be sure if Boyd raped him or not.
The defense did not re-cross Thomas. He stepped down at around 10:14 a.m.
Witness Jody Long takes the stand
Jody Long was the next witness. She used to buy drugs from Vince, the friend Thomas says the crew went to go see the night of the crime. She gave Coleman, Cobbins, and Thomas a ride to Kentucky after the murders in exchange for drugs.
After they all arrived in Kentucky, she saw mugshots of Coleman, Cobbins, and Thomas on the television and "freaked out" when she found out who she drove back to Kentucky for over four hours.
Long steps down at about 10:25 a.m.
Witness Ethel Freeman takes the stand
The next witness is Ethel Freeman (now Ethel Jones). She is the woman Davidson bought furniture from but never paid. Davidson and Cobbins also helped her move. She identified the curtain she gave Davidson which is the same curtain Newsom and Christian were tied up with. Sunday after the rape and murders, Freeman went to the Chipman home to pick up dishes that belonged to her grandmother. She tried to go home, but there was a train blocking the tracks on Cherry Street. This was the train with the engineer that found Newsom's body. She said Davidson was breathing heavy when she called him at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. She went back on Monday morning to try to get her money again. Ethel Freeman stepped down at about 10:38 a.m. The next witness is expected to be lengthy, so the judge decided to take a short recess.
Former Knox County Sheriff JJ Jones takes the witness stand
Court resumes at about 10:52 a.m. with former Knox County Sheriff JJ Jones taking the stand. Jones says he flew in the KCSO helicopter to Kentucky where Cobbins, Thomas, and Coleman were arrested. Lemaricus Davidson is frequently referred to as "Slim," and Eric Boyd is often referred to as "E." Jones did the initial interview with the suspects in Kentucky. He said Thomas "immediately" said yes to knowing Boyd. Jones said that was important that Thomas responded without hesitation because it indicated he did not have to think about it. The State is using Jones to make Thomas' testimony seem more reliable. He said he found Thomas to be the most truthful compared to the other suspects.
"There are such things as false confessions," said defense attorney Clinton Frazier. Jones agreed but said he did not lead Thomas to do that. Jones said the questions he asked were to "jog his [Thomas'] memory." He agreed that Thomas was not very accommodating in the interview but adds that is not unusual. Jones stepped down at about 11:16 a.m.
The mother of Chris Newsom, Mary Newsom, takes the witness stand
The next witness is late because court is moving faster than anticipated. The mother of Chris Newsom, Mary Newsom, takes the witness stand instead. She gave details of Chris' life, like his jobs, hobbies, etc. Mary said Channon and Chris had not been dating very long. She then went into what Chris was doing the day he and Channon were carjacked and murdered. She said he played golf all day and was not sure if he was going to come back that night or not. She said she did not hear from him that night, which was not that odd at the time, but the next day, she started to get worried when Channon's mother called her. She said she began calling hospitals. "We knew at that time that something bad must've happened to them," she said about them finding the 4Runner. She said when the chaplain came over and told them that the body they found on the tracks was Chris, she "lost it" and did not remember much of the next two weeks. The defense does not question her, and she stepped down around 11:25 a.m.
The mother of Channon Christian, Deena Christian, takes the witness stand
Deena Christian, the mother of Channon Christian, took the stand around 11:26 a.m. She began by describing her daughter's two jobs, a full load of classes, and activities at the University of Tennessee. She said Channon had a bunch of clothes in her car to take to Goodwill because she cleaned out her closet after getting new clothes for Christmas.
"Her daddy was a stickler for keeping her car clean," said Deena about how clean Channon kept her car. "It may be messy inside, but if there was dirt or a spot inside, she made damn sure to clean before her daddy came home," she added. This is one of the reasons they knew something had happened when they found the 4Runner because there was mud inside of it.
Deena was not expecting Channon home that night, but at about 12:30 a.m., Channon called her father to say she would be home at 2:30 a.m. This call is known to have been under duress. At 3:30 a.m., Deena started to get worried, so she called Channon who did not answer. She said that was unusual because Channon always at least called back quickly, even if she was sleeping.
"One minute it might ring and the next minute it wouldn't," Deena said about calling Channon that early Sunday morning. Channon was supposed to open the store she worked for the next day. When she did not show up, her boss called Deena to ask what was wrong. She said her stomach dropped because she knew something was wrong for sure then.
Deena then went into how they got the "pinging information" from the US Cellular cell tower. She knew Channon would never go to Cherry Street because "she would be scared to death."
Deena had never met Mary and Hugh Newsom before, so she found their number in the phone book to tell them she believes something had happened to their children. She said authorities would not help them because Channon and Chris were a young couple and had not been missing very long, so she, Gary Christian, and friends of Channon and Chris searched on their own.
After they learned that the body found by the railroad tracks was Chris, she said they knew things did not look good for Channon. She said once they found her body people were screaming and she "fell apart."
After Deena described her memory of what happened, ADA Phil Morton went through photos of Channon's belongings which were found in the Chipman Street house. There were many photos with many belongings in each one.
"That's me. She kept it to make fun of me," Deena laughs of possibly the most profound belonging of Channon which was a young photo of her mother.
Deena steps down at about 11:57 a.m. and the judge decides it is a good time to take a recess for lunch. Court will continue at 1:00 p.m.
Timothy Schade takes the witness stand to discuss fingerprint DNA
Timothy Schade took the stand at about 1:05 p.m. after an hour-long recess for lunch. He works for the University of Tennessee’s law enforcement innovation center and runs a forensic academy. Before that, he worked for the Knoxville Police Department. The State said much of the evidence was submitted by Cox, a witness from day two. Schade is a latent fingerprint specialist, so the State brought him in to discuss the fingerprint DNA in the case. Davidson's fingerprint was found on an envelope that was in Christian's 4Runner. The original fingerprint tech who found that evidence has died, but Schade was also involved in processing the fingerprint. Schade said they tested numerous items from the crime scene and did not find any fingerprints that matched Eric Boyd or Thomas George.
After going through the fingerprint evidence, the State moved on to other evidence like the trash bags Christian's body was found in and the clothes that were in the trash can with her body. Investigators were able to get prints off of some of the trash bags, specifically Davidson's but not Boyd's prints. Also, the trash can Christian's body was found in was placed into evidence. This was tough for the Christian family as they keep their arms around each other.
The defense cross-examines Schade about fingerprinting and how they go about doing DNA swabs and testing. His questioning ends with defense attorney Frazier making him repeat he did not find any DNA evidence on Boyd. Schade steps down at about 1:56 p.m.
Patricia Resig takes the witness stand
Patricia Resig took the stand at about 1:58 p.m. She worked for Knoxville Police in 2007 but is now retired. She assisted on documenting the crime scene and prepared diagrams of the house and measurements. She tells the State that the Chipman Street house was 805.8 square feet and gave the square footage of each room.
Resig went on to testify about the nuances of .22 caliber handguns and other types of guns, as an expert witness. Yesterday, Thomas said that Boyd had a gun that police have not recovered. Resig went over the guns found in the case and they are processed. She said the bullet that was recovered from Newsom's back and one recovered from his skull was fired from the same gun. She said she knows the bullets come from a .22 caliber but cannot tell if they were fired from an automatic gun or a revolver. She stepped down at about 2:29 p.m.
Daniel Foster takes the witness stand
Daniel Foster took the witness stand for the State at about 2:30 p.m. He worked for the State Fire Marshal's Office in 2007 and was an investigator at the scene where Newsom was burned. He described the scene on the railroad tracks where Newsom was burned and his body was found. He said a trained canine at the scene “had a change in behavior” meaning a fire accelerant was detected. The original Fire Marshal investigator in this case has died; Foster was his assistant at the time. He stepped down at about 2:41 p.m.
Russ Whitfield takes the witness stand
Russ Whitfield takes the witness stand at about 2:42 p.m. He is with the Knoxville Police Department and helped in the investigation. He took pictures at the railroad tracks where Newsom's body was found. Days later, Whitfield found a piece of "multi-colored cloth" from the scene. The State shows him the photos he took of the cloth which was seen earlier in the case. It was the same floral fabric found inside the Chipman house.
There was also a dog leash found at the scene that was moved into evidence. Whitfield went through some evidence including the strips of cloth used to tie Newsom up. He stepped down at about 2:58 p.m. and the judge decided to take a short afternoon recess.
Laura Hodge takes the witness stand
Laura Hodge took the stand at about 3:17 p.m. after a short afternoon recess. She works for TBI and was used by the State as an expert witness on fire debris analysis. She testified about rocks and soil taken from the scene where Newsom was burned. Her analysis revealed that the evidence from the scene contains evaporate gasoline which goes with the fact that Newsom was burned with gasoline and possibly from one of the many gas cans found in the Chipman Street house. Hodge stepped down at about 3:28 p.m.
Derek Norris takes the witness stand
Derek Norris took the stand at about 3:29 p.m. He works for US Cellular and is an expert witness in cellular optimization engineering for the State. He discussed the phone call Christian made at 12:33 a.m. that night. He says the call lasted 31 seconds and pinged from Cherry Street which is the tower closest to the Chipman house meaning Christian called home while she was at Chipman Street. It is believed she was under duress. Norris stepped down at about 3:37 p.m.
Daphne Sutton, Davidson's ex-girlfriend, takes the stand
Daphne Sutton took the stand at about 3:38 p.m. She is the ex-girlfriend of Lemaricus Davidson, who is regarded as the ringleader of the crime. She lived with Davidson at the Chipman Street house with her two children. She says she moved out multiple times because Davidson got violent with her often. She eventually moved out permanently before the crime.
The State says Sutton was the only one who had a car at the Chipman Street home until Boyd showed up. Although, she says her car was not working at the time.
The State went into what happened the day after the crime when Sutton went to the Chipman house. She said Davidson called her to the house to give her some things. She said he tried to give her clothes, a ring, and money. She said she tried to go to the bathroom to get her makeup but Davidson stopped her. She heard something fall in the sink and tried to get in the bathroom another way but was stopped again. She said Davidson grabbed her and told her she did not live in that house anymore, so she left. As prosecutor Fitzgerald showed Sutton the items Davidson gave her, she got emotional because the items belonged to Christian.
Sutton said she later saw Davidson in a Toyota 4Runner with an orange power T on it. She said she gave him the clothes back because she was upset they were not new. She gave the clothes back to Davidson but not everything. Later that day, she said Davidson called her to pick him up. She did and they stayed together Sunday and Monday night. She said Davidson was wearing Newsom's shoes on early Monday morning. She said Tuesday she learned about Christian's body in the Chipman house and kicked him out and drove him to Boyd's apartment complex. She added that Davidson's "eyes got really big" as he realized what she was learning. She said her mom called her after Christian's body was found because she was worried it was Sutton's body found in the house. She said the crime scene video of the Chipman house shows the trash can where Christian was found and adds that the gas cans were not where she usually kept them.
In cross-examination, Sutton said she first lied to law enforcement about what she knew about Davidson and the crime. She was not sure when she finally told the truth but believes it was the third time she was questioned by authorities. She said she never saw Boyd at the Chipman house at the time. The defense also added that Sutton's uncle is a Knoxville police officer. She stepped down at about 4:05 p.m.
Cassie Suttles takes the witness stand
Cassie Suttles took the witness stand at about 4:06 p.m. She is the friend Sutton was staying with at the time, and was with Sutton when she found out about Christian's body in the Chipman house. She was also there when Sutton dropped Davidson off at Boyd's apartment complex. She reaffirmed that Davidson was driving a 4Runner. She said she also did not see Boyd at the apartment. She stepped down at about 4:08 p.m.
Witnesses are done a little early today. Court adjourned at about 4:09 p.m. and will continue Friday at 9:00 a.m.