A chilling act of brutality largely ignored by national media because of racial implications
You probably have not heard the names Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.
But I remember those names, and the tears that were brought to my eyes when I heard about what happened to them.
On January 7, 2007, the young white couple—Channon was 21, her boyfriend Chris was 23—was abducted, beaten, raped, tortured, and murdered. Chris eventually shot to death before being set on fire, and Channon left to die with a plastic bag over her head in a trash can. The perpetrators were all black.
If you have not heard their story, it’s because the racial nature of that black-on-white crime was uncomfortable for the national media a decade ago. Even now, it’s uncomfortable, as the delayed and reluctant coverage of the Chicago tortures showed.
Here is their story.
Channon and Christopher were, according to reports, the kind of kids their parents always hoped for: kind, compassionate, ambitious . . . . They were nice kids.
Chris Newsom and Channon Christian were the kind of kids their parents always hoped for — compassionate, hard working, smart, funny and beautiful. The pair had just started dating and, on Jan. 6, 2007, were in a parking lot of a safe apartment complex in a safe neighborhood in Northeast Knoxville when they were snatched by strangers who didn’t even know their names.
Channon Christian was born in April 1985 in Nacogdoches, Texas, where her parents lived with older brother Chase. The family later relocated to Knoxville when Channon Christian still was a young girl. They settled in West Knoxville and built a solid, middle class life. From the start, her mother said, Channon Christian lit up rooms with her toothy smile, fun-loving spirit and gentle heart.
“She just loved life,” her mother said. “Her friends would call her with boyfriend issues. She loved children.”
Channon Christian was less than a year from graduating the University of Tennessee with a major in sociology when she was slain. . . .
“She was always specific,” Deena Christian said with a laugh. “She had it all planned. She wanted four kids, and she wanted the first one to be a boy, a big brother like her big brother Chase.”
Deena Christian doubts she and her daughter’s daddy could have afforded the wedding she had planned, but “we’d find a way to do it,” she said.
Now, they never will.
“Who doesn’t look forward to shopping for a wedding dress?” Deena Christian said. “I’ll never be the mother of the bride or a grandmother to her babies.”
Knoxville News continues:
Christopher Newsom was born in September 1983 in a Knoxville hospital. His parents were older than usual for parenthood. They already had grown children and a comfortable life in Halls, built on a foundation of work and faith when their baby boy bounced into their arms — full of boyish energy, a sweet heart and artistic talent.
“He loved sports,” his mother said. “He was very talented. He liked doing things that were beautiful.”
A talented baseball player who picked up a bat at age four, Christopher Newsom also used his hands to craft artwork and artistic wood creations. An injury sidelined his baseball career after he graduated Halls High School. He trained to be a motorcycle mechanic but eventually decided to become not just a carpenter, his parents said, but a craftsman.
“He made his headboard,” Hugh Newsom noted.
The Newsoms knew their son had a good heart, but they didn’t know just how big it was until after he died. Scores of people told them stories of his kindnesses — taking a dateless homecoming queen to the dance, sitting down with a girl in the lunchroom who had been ostracized by others and even lulling a snarling pit bull at a job site.
“There were numerous stories people told us,” Hugh Newsom said.
Channon and Chris had been dating only a couple of months when they were savagely, viciously attacked and murdered.
This is the second of only two news stories about human beings that has made me cry. Reading about what this bright, beautiful young couple endured was shattering, and I wept in horror, sympathy, compassion, sorrow, and disbelief.
The Blaze reports on what happened to Christopher Newsom:
“It turns out that the couple had made it to dinner, but when they arrived at the apartment complex where Christian’s best friends lived, they were carjacked by multiple assailants,” he said. “What followed was one of the most heinous, gruesome, senseless hate crimes, ever.”
It was at this point in the program that Beck advised parents to have their children leave the room or pause the show and watch it at a later time due to the graphic details of the story.
Newsom was gagged with a sock in his mouth, his ankles were bound with his own belt, his hands were tied behind his back, his face was covered with a bandana and his head covered with a sweatshirt that his five assailants had tied around his neck with shoestrings.
He was then violently raped with an object and beaten.
“One can only imagine the horror Christopher experienced as he was then forced to walk barefoot to the nearby railroad tracks, where he was shot in the neck in the back,” Beck said solemnly. “But the shots didn’t kill him — he fell to the ground and was paralyzed.”
“That’s when the assailants stood over him, placed the gun against his head and fired, killing him execution style,” he added. Newsom was shot a total of three times.
But not even that was enough. The attackers then poured gasoline on his body and set him on fire.
The Blaze also provides an overview of the inhuman cruelty inflicted on Channon Christian.
[She] was forced into a back room of the house where she was hog-tied with a strips of fabric from a bedding set. She was brutally raped “in every possible way imaginable” for several hours as the assailants beat her viciously with several objects, including a broken chair leg.
By the time Christian was taken into the living room, the five attackers realized they had left their DNA on their victim. In an attempt to cover their tracks, they poured bleach down her throat and on her body before they wrapped her body in black garbage bags and covered her head in a plastic grocery bag.
“She was then placed in a garbage can in the kitchen of the house — all of this while she was still alive,” Beck noted.
“Channon Christian’s last minutes on earth were spent slowly suffocating in a garbage can after she had been savagely beaten and raped for hours,” he added.
Authorities impounded Christian’s vehicle and a latent print examiner discovered a fingerprint inside the car that did not match the couple. Investigators entered the print into their database and were able to link it to Lemaricus Devall “Slim” Davidson, a then 25-year-old resident of 2316 Chipman Street.
. . . . While crime scene technicians processed the house, investigators traced Davidson to an empty house in Knoxville. Shortly after Davidson’s arrest, authorities arrested Eric DeWayne Boyd, then 34, in Knoxville, and George Geovonni Thomas, then 27; Vanessa Coleman, then 18; and Davidson’s brother, Letalvis Cobbins, then 24, in Lebanon, Ky.
They were caught within days of the crime, and each has had his and her day in court.
The Legal Cases and Trials
From the start, this case was plagued by scandal, delay, and retrials.
[J]uries have convicted the five people who authorities say were involved; the judge who initially oversaw the first trials experienced his own fall from grace; and state leaders have passed judicial laws somewhat connected to the tragic murders.
. . . . In late January that year, a Knox County grand jury returned a 46-count indictment against the small crew. The allegations included various degrees of murder, robbery, kidnapping, theft and rape.
Named were Davidson, who was 25 at the time; Cobbins, 24 then; George Thomas, also 24 at the time; and Vanessa Lynn Coleman, who was 18 and dating Cobbins.
A fifth suspect, then 35-year-old Eric Boyd, was charged in federal court with being an accessory to carjacking. He was the only one of the five who didn’t face murder charges. He also was the only one not tried in Knox County Criminal Court.
The state presentment said Davidson, Cobbins and Thomas participated in the carjacking and Coleman was at the house when they brought Christian and Newsom there by gunpoint.
- In April, 2008, a federal jury found Boyd, who had a felony record, guilty of hiding Davidson after the slaying. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison
- In August 2009, a jury found Cobbins guilty of murder and the facilitation of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
- In October 2009, a jury found Davidson – the man prosecutors called the ringleader – guilty of 35 counts, including murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape. The jury recommended death.
- In December 2009, a jury found Thomas guilty of 38 counts, including murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
- In May 2010, Coleman was found guilty of facilitation in Christian’s murder, kidnapping and rape. She was sentenced to 53 years in prison.
In early 2011, Thomas, Cobbins, Davidson and Coleman appealed their convictions.
The move followed Judge Richard Baumgartner stepping down as details began to emerge that he had carried on an affair with a woman in the drug court that he supervised, using her to secure prescription pills for a drug habit.
The judge’s judgment and competency were questioned, so many in this monstrous gang got retrials.
The courts determined that Baumgartner’s drug addiction impaired his ability to conduct trials and ordered retrials for a number of them, including Thomas and Coleman.
In November 2012, a jury convicted Coleman on similar but lesser charges and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In May 2013, a jury convicted Thomas on almost every one of the same charges, although he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years.
Thomas appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2016, asking the justices to review his case. His attorneys argued that Thomas was homeless at the time of the slayings and only staying at the home where the crimes took place. They argued he was not a willing participant. No DNA was presented in court linking him to the crimes.
For more details, see the timeline of the cases and trials here.
Watch the Knoxville News‘ segment:
From the start, the mainstream media didn’t want to touch this case. Everything about it ran counter to their cherished narrative, so as they do with all inconvenient facts and evidence, they tried to ignore it. This ostrich stance sparked both national and international outrage.
The Daily Mail addressed the problem in 2009.
But, even though the killings happened in January, 2007, they have attracted very little national and international coverage.
That’s because they do not fit into the conventional contours of an attack in America’s Deep South, where a shameful history of racial intolerance has meant assaults by whites on blacks have historically been regarded in the context of race.
In this case, the races were reversed: the victims were white and the four men and one woman charged in connection with the murders are black.
. . . . University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds said the American media has a ‘template’ for covering white-on-black crime but not the reverse.
‘I think it would have gotten a lot of national play faster if it had been a black couple kidnapped and killed by five white people,’ he told the local paper in Knoxville.
NBC News also reported on the charges against the media for failing to cover this case.
In a powerful demonstration of the way the Internet has opened up the mainstream media to intensive second-guessing, bloggers are charging that news outlets have ignored the rape and murder of a young Knoxville couple because of the racial implications of the story.
The two victims were white; the five defendants are black.
The critics include mainstream conservatives, such as the National Review, and white supremacists. They have drawn comparisons to the Duke lacrosse rape case and wondered why the killings of Channon Christian, a 21-year-old University of Tennessee student, and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, are not getting the same attention from what the bloggers regard sneeringly as the liberal media.
“Oh, that’s right, the victims were WHITE!” several conservative blogs have observed.
Or as National Review columnist Jack Dunphy commented online: “Uh oh, we’re not supposed to talk about such things, are we.”
. . . . Local media in Knoxville have covered developments in the carjacking case since the bodies were found, and The Associated Press ran stories that were transmitted nationally. But the killings have received scant attention from other media outlets.
And that is still par for the course. “If it bleeds, it leads” is often touted as a journalistic mantra, but the truth is that black people who make white people bleed are often simply ignored, downplayed, or bizarrely “justified” in some bizarro world where white people can’t be victims of crimes perpetrated by black people.
Something is very broken in our national media, and there is no place this is more evident than in the selective reporting of black on white vs. white on black crime.