KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The parents of murder victims Channon Christian and Chris Newsom will always hold on to the memories of their children, but they’re also seeking more justice in court.
The couple was carjacked at gunpoint, robbed, tortured, raped and killed in January 2007.
Christian, a 5’7″ student at the University of Tennessee, was bound, put in garbage bags and stuffed in a trash can where she suffocated.
Newsom was bound, taken to a set of railroad tracks, shot three times and then set on fire.
Both wound up nearly unrecognizable on autopsy tables.
The randomness of the torture slayings evoked fear and disbelief from authorities and the community.
A massive investigation eventually brought four defendants to trial. Vanessa Coleman was sentenced to 53 years on lesser charges in the case.
Coleman’s boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins, and his friend, George Thomas, will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
And Cobbins’ half-brother, LeMaricus Davidson, received the death penalty.
Still the parents of the victims say they have unfinished business.
“They kept saying Davidson was the ringleader. Well he may have been the ringleader, but he wasn’t the most evil of them all. He may have been the ringleader, but he did everything Eric Boyd said,” Deena and Gary Christian said.
Boyd is serving an 18 year prison sentence in this case. He was convicted in federal court as an accessory after the fact for helping Davidson hide from authorities.
However, Boyd was never charged with rape or murder. “I will always feel like Boyd is getting away with murder,” said Chris’ mother, Mary Newsom.
Cobbins told investigators it was Boyd and Davidson who launched the crime spree that started with the couple’s carjacking.
“They jump out of the car and run to a white SUV and, um, there was two people, a man and a woman at the SUV. They jump in, pointing guns at them and, and um, they carjacked them I guess,” Cobbins said during one interview by authorities.
“He is one of them that got in the (Toyota) 4Runner and put a gun on Channon. For that, he needs to face the death penalty,” Gary Christian said.
“Eric Boyd was the one that first took him (Chris) away and tied him up and raped him,” Mary Newsom said.
Most, if not all, of the defendants insinuated that Boyd was the one to first take Chris Newsom away after the carjacking. They said he returned a short time later without Newsom to Davidson’s rental home on Chipman Street, where Christian was held captive.
“I figured when he came back without him you know that he went ahead and did something with the old boy,” George Thomas told investigators in an interview.
“You don’t know if Chris felt the bullet, but he damn well felt what they did to him,” Gary Christian said. “I think Thomas shot him in the back and Eric Boyd shot him in the head.”
“He never told me he did any of that. He never told me he was involved in any of that,” said Boyd’s attorney, Phil Lomonaco, during a recent interview.
Lomonaco was appointed to represent Boyd during the federal trial. He says he took a lot of heat for taking Boyd’s case, but he had an obligation to uphold the Constitution.
Lomonaco also says if there’s tangible evidence against Boyd, the state should make a move. “If they have the evidence that there is probable cause, then they should do it.”
But even with all the accounts implicating Boyd, the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office by law can’t use the incriminating statements made to investigators by the other convicted killers, even if they did prosecute Boyd.
“I don’t feel like Chris got full justice,” said his father, Hugh Newsom.
The Newsoms know key evidence has to turn up to get any break in this case. “The longer it goes, the dimmer the memory gets, and you have witnesses, key witnesses, that disappear on you,” Hugh Newsom added.
The Knoxville Police Department and the DA’s office wouldn’t comment for this report, except to say the case is still open and under investigation.
However, “There is no doubt that Eric Boyd is going to be prosecuted in state court,” Gary Christian said. “Eric Boyd is not going to come on the streets in this country again.”
The Christians say the other convicted killers may not have been motivated by race, but they believe Boyd was. “Eric Boyd did what he did because he hated white people,” Gary said.
When asked if he feels this was a hate crime on the part of Eric Boyd, Hugh Newsom said, “Yes, absolutely.”
The parents have been to more than 200 court proceedings to seek justice for the children they only see now in photos and dreams.
“Between, I think all four of us, we will never stop until everybody that was involved is put behind bars,” Deena Christian said.
Boyd is being held at a medium security prison in West Virginia with 12 years of his 18 year sentence still to serve. He’s due to be released in 2022.
Boyd’s federal conviction in this case is under appeal.