Ringleader in Tennessee Couple's Rape and Murder Convicted, May Get Death Penalty

The man accused of being the ringleader of a carjacking that turned into the rapes and murders of a Tennessee couple was convicted of the most serious charges and now faces the death penalty.

The jury, which deliberated a little more than 8 hours before returning the verdict against Lemaricus Davidson, 28, Tuesday was hearing evidence Wednesday on whether to sentence him to death.

Davidson was tried on 38 counts, including premeditated murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape and theft in the 2007 deaths of University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23.

The only not guilty findings were on three counts relating to the rape of Newsom, and Davidson was found guilty of the lesser crime of facilitation on those counts.

Davidson showed no emotion as he heard the jury's verdict. Newsom's family followed the readings closely but showed little reaction, while Christian's father rocked back and forth and occasionally pumped his fist as guilty verdicts were announced.

Prosecutors contended Davidson was the ringleader in the attack. The defense portrayed him as a drug dealer and bystander to the crimes but not the killer.

The prosecution presented six days of testimony that linked Davidson to the crime through DNA evidence from semen on Christian's body and fingerprints in her vehicle, on her paycheck stub and on the trash bag where her body was found.

Jurors saw a videotape of police questioning Davidson in which he blamed the murders on others. "Selling dope, that's what I do. I don't kill people."

Christian and Newsom were carjacked by several gun-wielding men during a Saturday night date as they left a friend's apartment. They were taken to Davidson's rental house, beaten, raped and killed over several hours.

A few days later, his naked, bound and shot body was found partially burned along some railroad tracks. Hers was found hog-tied and stuffed in a trash can in Davidson's house. She suffocated in the trash can.

Davidson, who moved to Knoxville after serving a prison sentence for carjacking in western Tennessee, was arrested within days in an abandoned house 10 minutes from the crime scene. Police found Newsom's silver athletic shoes in the house and a .22-caliber pistol.

The bullets were the same type that killed Newsom with an execution-style shot to the head, but forensic experts cannot say the pistol was the murder weapon, Eldridge said.

Davidson's brother Letalvis Cobbins was convicted in August of murder and related counts and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He testified during his trial that he participated in the carjacking and raped Christian but claimed he was going along with the crime out of fear of Davidson.

Another conspirator, Eric Boyd, was convicted in federal court of being an accessory after the fact and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Two others, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman, of Lebanon, Ky., are awaiting trial in state court on murder and related counts.