The first of four alleged members of a black gang scheduled to be tried for murder for the torture-slayings of a young white couple has been found guilty on multiple counts by jurors in Tennessee.
WND reported just days ago when the trial was begun for Letalvis Cobbins on counts of first-degree murder and others for the 2007 deaths of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.
Carjacking victims Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom
The brutalized bodies of the victims showed evidence that the attackers had tried to destroy DNA evidence by dousing Christian with bleach and Newsom’s body was burned beyond recognition.
Jurors now will consider during the second part of the trial before Judge Richard Baumgartner whether the death penalty should be applied to Cobbins, 26.
According to a report in the Knoxville News Sentinel, Cobbins was convicted today of all crimes against Christian as well as first-degree murder for both deaths, but not of the charges involving the rape of Newsom.
“He raped my daughter. He’s responsible for her murder. I’ve said all along he’s going down,” Gary Christian, Channon’s father, told the newspaper.
Both prosecutors and defense lawyers declined comment to the newspaper on the result of the trial for Cobbins, of Lebanon, Tenn.
Still awaiting trial are Lemaricus Davidson, 28, the Knoxville man investigators named as the leader in what allegedly started out as a carjacking.
George Thomas, 26, and Vanessa Coleman, 21, of Lebanon, also are in jail awaiting their court dates.
Eric Boyd, a fifth person named as being involved, already is serving a term for being an accessory although he was not actually charged in the deaths.
L to R, Eric Boyd, Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas, Letalvis Cobbins, and Vanessa Coleman
Authorities report Christian, 21, and Newsom, 23, were on a Jan. 6, 2007, date and were in the process of leaving a friend’s apartment complex.
Christian reportedly was sitting at the wheel of her Toyota SUV and Newsom was at her side in the open door, kissing her, when they were attacked by the armed gang members.
According to court documents, the two were tied up, blindfolded and taken to one defendant’s rental home. Shortly thereafter, Newsom was sexually assaulted, shot in the head, set on fire and his body was left beside railroad tracks. The attackers allegedly took 24 hours to kill Christian, raping her multiple times and spraying bleach in her mouth to destroy evidence before stuffing her in plastic and dumping her in a closed trash can.
The suspects were arrested within a few days in the Knoxville and Lebanon areas.
Cobbins’ attorney, Scott Green, told jurors in his opening statement that Cobbins is a coward and a rapist but not a killer.
Prosecutors have explained the suspects carjacked the couple and decided to get rid of Newsom before pursuing their sexual attack on Christian.
On a forum page at the Knoxville newspaper, the defendants already were sentenced:
“Have a slow, painful, agonizing death,” wrote a forum page participant at the News Sentinel.
Wrote another, “It’s a good day for a hanging.”
On the forum page for columnist Michelle Malkin, further comments included:
“There are problems with the death penalty, but if it doesn’t apply in this case, then it never applies.”
“These monsters didn’t just brutally kill two young people, they killed the peace of mind of four loving parents. My heart goes out to them.”
“These … animals should suffer the same fate as their victims. A lethal injection is too good for them.”
“I would not be opposed to going Medieval … A public quartering would send a message to other dirt bags that society will not tolerate such atrocities.”
“It is an injustice that when the death penalty is carried out on these feral animals, it will be quick and painless. It should be long and brutal, and their last words should be a pain-wracked pleading for an end to their misery. Sorry, but that is exactly how I feel.”
Such comments were the target of concerns expressed earlier by the judge in the case.
Baumgartner had suggested some control over the website comments, drawing a response from an attorney for the News Sentinel that such limits would infringe on the First Amendment.
The issue arose when Thomas Dillard, attorney for suspect Thomas, filed a petition asking the judge to either ban media websites from allowing readers to post comments about the case or to require the news organizations to “continuously monitor, in real time” comments. Dillard wanted the websites to allow only comments made under poster’s actual names and only those that would be deemed “printable and publishable by the news outlet personnel themselves.”
An attorney for WBIR-TV, which along with the News Sentinel was specifically named in the petition, argued that the “comments” sections of their websites constitute a “giant bulletin board” and as such is protected by the First Amendment.
When the case originally developed, WND reported an indictment named the defendants on nearly 50 counts of kidnapping, gang-rape, murder and theft.