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Defense Rests in Tennessee Torture Slay of Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian

(AP Photo/Christian Family Photo)
Family Photo: Channon Christian, left, and boyfriend Christopher Newsom.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CBS/AP) The defense has rested in the trial of Lemaricus Davidson, the man investigators say was the leader in the torture deaths of a young Knoxville couple.

University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23, were kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in January 2007.

The couple was on a Saturday night date when prosecutors say they were jumped by several gun-wielding assailants, taken to Davidson's house and over the next several hours raped, beaten and killed.

Newsom's naked, shot and burned body was found on Monday along railroad tracks. Christian's body was found a day later stuffed in a trash can in Davidson's house. Medical experts say she was alive when she was placed hog-tied in the can and then suffocated.

Davidson's ex-girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, testified against him last week.

"He was begging me to believe he didn't do anything. It was all his brother," she said when she confronted him after the local media reported that Christian's body had been found in the small rental house she had shared with Davidson until just a few days before the crime.

(AP Photo/J. Miles Cary)
Lemaricus Davidson stands in court Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sutton said Davidson came to see her the night after the abduction at her friend's apartment. He was driving Christian's stolen Toyota 4-Runner and wearing Newsom's too-small silver athletic shoes. Sutton's apartment host, Kassi Suttles, testified she also saw the SUV and the shoes.

Defense attorney Doug Trant made little attempt to blunt the testimony and Judge Richard Baumgartner announced without elaborating that he couldn't ask a follow-up question from the jury.

Davidson's brother and co-defendant, Letalvis Cobbins, has been convicted of murder and related charges in the case and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Cobbins testified he participated because he feared his 28-year-old brother and that he saw him choke Christian.

The grisly crime, which has gripped this community and touched a racial nerve with some because Davidson and his co-defendants are black and the victims were white, has been portrayed by prosecutors as a carjacking gone horribly awry.

Davidson, described as a small-time drug dealer and ex-con who served time for carjacking, has pleaded not guilty to 46 counts of premeditated murder, felony murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and theft. The prosecution will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

(AP Photo/Christian Family Photo)
Photo: Channon Christian, right, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom in 2006.

Two other co-defendants are awaiting separate trials. A fifth conspirator, Eric Boyd, was convicted in federal court of being an accessory after the fact for helping hide Davidson and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Sutton, an acknowledged drug user, said she moved into a friend's apartment a few days before the carjacking but stayed in touch with Davidson. He invited her back to the house on Sunday afternoon to give her a bag of clothes, including a red skirt Sutton identified, that turned out to be Christian's.

She testified that Davidson, Cobbins and co-defendant George Thomas were all at the house, and she was told Cobbins' girlfriend and co-defendant Vanessa Coleman was in the bathroom so she couldn't go in to retrieve her makeup. She also was prevented from going into the kitchen and back bedroom where Cobbins said Christian was held.

Davidson ended up spending a few nights at the apartment, telling Sutton that his brother disappeared with his house keys and he couldn't go home. She testified she doubted him but let him stay even after she found his keys. She confronted him after her mother called to say Christian's body had been found, and he blamed Cobbins.

Suttles testified she, Sutton and another roommate all drove Davidson to another apartment complex to hide.

Davidson was later captured at an abandoned house, where police said they found Newsom's shoes, a few clothes, binoculars and an unloaded .22-caliber revolver — the same caliber that killed Newsom.

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