In a fatal carjacking where specifics had been slow to emerge, details came fast and furious Thursday as a federal prosecutor fought to keep one suspect locked up pending trial.
In a matter of minutes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Stone unveiled several key aspects of the case authorities are trying to build against four suspects named in an indictment delivered by a federal grand jury in connection with the carjacking, kidnapping and killing of a Knox County couple.
New details offered at the U.S. District Court hearing by Stone included:
* Eric Dewayne “E” Boyd, 34, who is at this point accused of being an accessory to carjacking, has told authorities that accused carjacker Lemaricus “Slim” Davidson, 25, choked slaying victim Channon Gail Christian.
* Boyd claims fellow accused accessory George “Detroit” Thomas shot Christian’s boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, and set his bound body afire with gasoline.
* Davidson’s ex-girlfriend told authorities that Boyd, Thomas, Davidson and Davidson’s brother, Letalvis “Rome” Cobbins, all left together on the night of Jan. 6, just hours before the fatal carjacking, with a plan to “go get money,” Stone said.
* Davidson and Boyd allegedly had been on a veritable robbery spree in the past few months, robbing restaurant employees, committing home invasion robberies and plotting a bank robbery.
** Davidson has told U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives agents that Cobbins and Boyd robbed a Wishbone restaurant on Magnolia Avenue on Jan. 7.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings also served up a hint of what may be on the horizon. Right now, only Cobbins and Davidson are charged in the actual carjacking.
Jennings noted that Cobbins and Davidson currently face only a maximum 15-year prison term in the carjacking case.
“The government believes there are circumstances existing in this case which could trigger (imposition of the) death (penalty),” Jennings said.
Thursday’s hearing was to serve as brief initial appearances for Boyd and Davidson, where both entered pleas of not guilty and a March 28 trial date was set.
Until now, authorities would confirm only that Newsom had been shot, bound and burned. His body was found Jan. 7 alongside railroad tracks near Ninth Avenue and Cherry Street. Christian’s body was found Jan. 9 stuffed in a trashcan inside a Chipman Street house where Davidson and Cobbins had been living. She had been beaten and raped, but authorities haven’t revealed how she died. Authorities also won’t say where the couple first encountered the alleged carjackers.
Gaines argued that Boyd was not yet charged in the carjacking.
“Your honor, Mr. Boyd is charged with accessory after the fact of a crime,” Gaines said. “What we have in an accessory after the fact is a nonviolent crime. He’s not a flight risk. The government’s own criminal complaint reflects repeatedly that Mr. Boyd cooperated with the United States.”
Stone countered with tidbits of mounting evidence in the case against Boyd and argued that Boyd is already a convicted serial robber.
“Mr. Boyd’s criminal history in a word is quite scary,” Stone told Guyton. “I can’t even count the (number of) aggravated robbery convictions.”
There are at least 12, records show.
Thomas and Cobbins have not yet appeared in a Knoxville courtroom on the federal indictment. Both were nabbed last week in Lebanon, Ky., and are awaiting transfer back to Knox County to face the federal indictment returned by a grand jury Wednesday.
Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols has not yet sought an indictment in the kidnapping and slaying of the couple. With a federal indictment already in place, his office is not under pressure to hurry its probe.
[Website editor: The original account of this story can be found here.]