Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols’ office on Friday filed a notice of the state’s intent to seek the death penalty if Letalvis “Rome” Cobbins, 25, is convicted in the January slayings of University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, 23.
Cobbins is the first of four suspects in the killings to face trial, the likely explanation for why he is the first to draw a death notice. For now, prosecutors are keeping mum on the possible sentencing fate of Cobbins’ alleged conspirators in the fatal carjacking, including alleged ringleader Lemaricus “Slim” Davidson, who is Cobbins’ brother.
The state needed only to allege one legal factor for designating the allegations against Cobbins as a capital murder case. Nichols cited eight, however.
The grounds he cited:
# Cobbins was a violent criminal before the carjacking turned kidnapping, rape and slaying, having racked up “one or more felonies” involving “the use of violence to the person,” the notice stated.
# Newsom was tortured.
# Christian was tortured.
# Newsom was slain to cover up Cobbins’ alleged role in the carjacking, kidnapping, rape and robbery.
# Christian was slain to cover up Cobbins’ alleged role in the carjacking, kidnapping, rape and robbery.
# Newsom’s slaying came during the commission of crimes against Christian.
# Christian’s killing came during and after the commission of crimes against Newsom.
# Cobbins’ allegedly “mutilated the body of Chris Newsom after death,” the notice stated. Newsom’s body was set afire after he was shot to death.
Christian and Newsom had been out on a date when they encountered armed carjackers who wound up taking the couple along with Christian’s Toyota 4-Runner. Authorities said the pair were robbed and taken at gunpoint to a house on Chipman Street where Davidson had been living.
The couple was beaten, tortured and repeatedly raped, according to authorities. Newsom was slain first, with Christian held and victimized several more hours before she was strangled and her body discarded in a large trash can inside the house.
Newsom’s body, dumped alongside railroad tracks, was found less than 24 hours after the couple was reporting missing. It would be another two days, however, before Christian’s body was discovered.
Cobbins’ girlfriend—Vanessa Coleman, the lone female suspect in the case—is being tried second. Davidson is third, followed by George “Detroit” Thomas.