Horrendous crime, double standard, missing details

Speaking of unverifiable details, Michael Gaynor at the Conservative Voice writes about the gruesome kidnaping, rape and murder of a couple in Knoxville, Tennessee, and complains that not only are the MSM ignoring the story, but that even the local media are not supplying the missing details:

....for the Channon Christian/Chris Newsom case, The New York Times does not have a place.

THAT is yet another disgrace.

Americans should know about the Channon Christian/Chris Newsom case, even if they don't live in or near Knoxville, Tennessee.

On January 9, 2007, Whitney Daniel of CBS affiliate WVLT reported that "a body that was found Tuesday on Chipman Street in East Knoxville" had "been identified as that of 21-year-old Channon Christian," "only blocks away from the area where the body of her boyfriend, 23-year-old Chris Newsom, [had been] found" two days earlier.

On January 13, 2007, the Knoxville News Sentinel's Jamie Satterfield and Don Jacobs reported details of the double slaying.

"They wanted the 4-Runner but wound up taking the lives of a young Knox County couple in brutal fashion, court records made public Friday reveal.

"'Originally the plan was to do a carjacking,' a pal of fatal carjacking suspect Lemaricus Devall Davidson told a federal agent."

Satterfield and Jacobs:

"[I]t ended early Sunday morning in a seedy rental house on Chipman Street, where Christian and Newsom were forced inside at gunpoint, according to state and federal court records.

"Newsom was shot, bound and his body wrapped up in bedding and set afire, according to a search warrant application drafted by Knoxville Police Department Investigator Todd Childress.

"Police would find his body later that day discarded like trash along nearby railroad tracks. Two days passed before Christian's battered body was found stuffed in a trash can in the Chipman Street house where, records show, Davidson and Cobbins had been living."

Horrific, but not the whole story.

Satterfield and Jacobs: "None of the records released Friday indicate how Christian died. Her body wasn't discovered until Tuesday. Authorities have not disputed Knighten's account that she had been raped."

Still not the whole story.

On January 16, 2007, Katie Allison Granju, an NBC affiliate WBIR producer, revealed more details.

"The bodies of the young Knoxville couple were found separately last week. Four men, Lemaricus Davidson, Latalvus Cobbins, George Thomas and Eric Boyd, have been taken into custody as part of the investigation."

But some key details as to the savagery of the crimes being investigated were missing.

I'll get to the missing details, but here's NRO columnist Jack Dunphy's writeup:
Compare the attention given the Duke case with that accorded a far more heinous crime, one whose victims have thus far failed to arouse the sympathies or even the notice of those who found so much enjoyment in their condemnation of the lacrosse players. Chances are, unless you live in Tennessee, you will not recognize the names Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Christian, 21, and Newsome, 23, both of Knoxville, were driving through that city together on the night of January 6 when they were kidnapped and murdered. Newsome's burned body was found along some railroad tracks on January 7. Christian remained missing for two more days until her body, stuffed in a trash can, was found in a home not far from where Newsome's was found. Police and prosecutors allege both victims were raped before being killed. Yes, both. Three men and a woman have been charged with the crimes in a 46-count grand jury indictment handed down in Knoxville on January 31.

The story was given a few brief mentions on the AP wire, which were in turn carried on the Fox News and ABC News websites, but you'll find no mention of the crime in the online archives of CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Run a similar search for stories on the Duke case and you'll be sifting through the results for hours. It's not as though these news providers have shied away from crime since being embarrassed in the Duke case. For example, when Tara Grant went missing from her suburban Detroit home in February, the investigation grew and grew in media attention until it became a national story. An AP story appearing on the MSNBC website ran under the headline, "Mich. case a perfect recipe for media frenzy." And indeed it was. When Grant's dismembered body was discovered inside her home, triggering a manhunt for her husband and his eventual arrest, the coverage ramped up nearly to the point of Laci Peterson-type saturation. Only the carnival surrounding Anna Nichole Smith's death kept the Grant murder from being the Story of the Month. Yet the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome are known to almost no one outside Tennessee. Why?

It's simple: the four suspects accused of killing Christian and Newsome are blacks from the inner city of Knoxville.

Uh oh, we're not supposed to talk about such things, are we. We're careful to step ever so gingerly around issues of race and crime, except of course when there is an opportunity, as in the Duke case, to point to a group of privileged whites and say, "See? Look at how badly they've behaved! Look at how they treated that poor black single mother!"

He is certainly right about the double standard. Especially because of the heinous and gruesome nature of the crime, I think the Newsome/Christian case deserves much wider reporting than it has gotten. (But I don't believe in "hate crime" legislation, so I share Glenn Reynolds' assessment in that respect.)

The basic facts of the crime are bad enough, and there have been multiple arrests and multiple indictments. Local television station WVLT has been providing the details of original incident, as well as the later indictments. A local crime blog has posted numerous reports, including the indictments.

But the grotesquely awful details are what make the case (and the Conservative Voice post) echo widely on the Internet.

The trouble is, I have been unable to verify them. As far as I can determine, all the posts and discussions of these details point to a single source: Stefanie Williams at the University of Maryland, who reports thusly:

Trust me when I say this story is more newsworthy than the Natalie Holloway case, the Duke lacrosse scandal and Anna Nicole Smith combined. A young couple, students from the University of Tennessee, were victims of a carjacking and were kidnapped, raped, tortured and eventually murdered by five people. Descriptions of their deaths were so brutal that I had to read them several times to fully process the implications.

Newsom was kidnapped, raped and beaten. According to reports, his penis was then cut off before he was shot several times and set on fire, all while his girlfriend watched. His body was then dumped alongside train tracks. Christian was kept alive and gang-raped multiple times over a span of four days. Her breast was cut off while she was still alive and her kidnappers sprayed cleaning fluid into her mouth to cleanse it of DNA. Her body was then put into a garbage can.

This should have been front- page, prime time news. There is speculation that because all five of the arrested kidnappers were black, and the couple white, this story was swept under the rug. Whatever the case, instead of this legitimate news story, I have been spoon-fed pointless stories about Anna Nicole Smith and the innumerable men she slept with.

It seems to me that the details of such a gruesome nature would be verifiable somewhere if they were part of the story. But they are nowhere to be found, in any news source or report.

The more I thought this over, the more it occurred to me that because the victims are dead, and the suspects haven't been tried, evidence that the man's penis and the woman's breast were severed while they were still alive would have come either from a confession of a coroner's report.

According to this Knox News report:

Newsom was shot, bound and his body wrapped up in bedding and set afire, according to a search warrant application drafted by Knoxville Police Department Investigator Todd Childress.

Police would find his body later that day discarded like trash along nearby railroad tracks. Two days passed before Christian's battered body was found stuffed in a trash can in the Chipman Street house where, records show, Davidson and Cobbins had been living.

Although Western Kentucky Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Rich Knighten told the News Sentinel that Christian had been held captive for "a couple of days," records unsealed by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley at a hearing in Knoxville Friday suggest otherwise.

Complaints prepared by a team of federal agents and prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office, including Tracy Stone, David Jennings, Steve Cook, Mike Winck and Tracee Plowell, indicate that Christian likely was dead by Sunday evening.

What about the torture and mutilation? The only way to know whether someone was tortured while still alive is by medical examination of the corpse.

Yet no one is quoting a coroner's report.


From what other source could such details originate?

I emailed Stefanie Williams, and as of yet I haven't heard back from her. According to Michael Gaynor in the Conservative Voice, however, she emailed him to say this:

"I've been blogging about this case that went on in Knoxville, Tenn...where 2 white kids were kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered by 4 black men and a black woman...the story was ridiculously gruesome, and I was shocked, SHOCKED to find not ONE main stream media outlet picked it up, not even Fox...

" * * *

"In a world where our most prominent news outlets spend 8 hours a day talking about who the father of a drugged up porn star ex stripper's child is, it saddens me that true victims like the 2 kids in this case go unnoticed."

They have not gone unnoticed here (although I'm a bit late to notice; Glenn Reynolds posted about the case months ago, as did Dr. Helen).

It's horrible that a crime like this took place, and I think it merits much wider attention.

But I don't think it helps for people to complain that the media are not reporting "missing details" without supplying any links to where those details can be found.

Anyone who can help, I'm all ears.

UPDATE (04/18/07): Still no word from Stefanie Williams, who as far as I can determine is the only source about the grotesque sexual mutilation. However, Wikipedia now has an entry about the case. The same allegations of pre-mortem sexual mutilation are there, but once again, the only evidence is the same article by Stefanie Williams (which provides no links).

The Wiki entry links a CBS News report and a WBIR report, but neither mentions anything about pre-mortem sexual mutilation.

UPDATE: More here on the Wiki entry.

posted by Eric on 04.18.07 at 06:12 PM


This month has just sickened me to the bone. The overblown Imus and Smith situations receiving more coverage then any other issues I've seen, the removal of self-defense from members of the VT student body and then this to top off one bloody cake. In fact there's more (Mark Steyn's latest quoting something he wrote in Canada a few years ago included) and I'm just sitting here trying to process the madness. Not the madness of insane and sick monsters' actions, monsters have always existed, but the utter lack of fire or will of people to say enough is enough. Seeing so many people fall so quickly to becoming victims and trying to coddle what is the reality of a very violent world is just, inhumane.

I know in some senses this is just a rant or ramble considering the emotions I'm feeling but I have to wonder where's the breaking point? Does our society have one? Is there a moment where we say enough to the PC bulls**t and face the reality of our world which isn't the nice melting pot of humanity we seem to mistake ourselves into thinking.

Anyone else feeling the strain of the current culture?

CTDeLude   ·  April 18, 2007 7:22 PM

This is not the first. The Zebra killings in the SF Bay Area in the '70s are an example of black/white race killings.
But have those charged with the torture and murder in this case admitted a racial motive?

Frank   ·  April 19, 2007 12:20 AM

Other than the fact that this was black on white crime, I haven't see any evidence that the victims were selected because of their race. One of the reasons I object to hate crime laws is that they invite the attribution of racial motives, when the focus should be on punishing the crimes.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 19, 2007 6:37 AM

Eric: I appreciate the work you're doing on your blog to point out how information gathering and reporting, whether by media or authorities, is not a perfect art.

Things make their way into stories from weird sources. In this particular instance, I wouldn't be surprised if Ms Williams did, in fact, hear those details from a cop. But that's no insurance, of course, that the cop knew what he was talking about. Maybe so, but until there's a coroner's report, nobody can know for sure. (If they're taking coroner's reports as valid, as you note elsewhere.)

John Burgess   ·  April 20, 2007 5:31 AM

I find it more than disgusting, yet typical of the mainstream media to avoid a story like this. I first heard of it on "Rovers Morning Glory" Talk show in Cleveland Ohio. I always question the legitity and sincerity of any newscast. I find it disturbing that I had to do 3 google searches just to get to this article. What is this world coming to. Sadly enough, it's my feeling that the media is afraid of being labled as racist...somehow? This has nothing to do with race, it has to do with sick individuals that we will pay for their food and board for the next 20 years. When in all actuality they should be sent to Iraq to die instead of our troops that are just graduating high school!

Just pure disgust! Shame on all of the media that refused to amplify this story "afraid" of possible radicals like Jessy and all the others that jump to the rescue of thugs that don't deserve a second chance. Shame on you all!

All of the best wishes to the families of these two innocent beings that were subject to this horror

shawn   ·  May 14, 2007 9:45 AM

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