KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A second jury found Christian-Newsom defendant George Thomas guilty on all 38 charges for his role in the torture, rape, kidnapping and murders of the Knoxville couple.
He was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder charges. In his original trial, he received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were brutally kidnapped, raped and murdered at a home in East Knoxville in January 2007.
This was the second trial for Thomas. The 38 guilty verdicts were thrown out in January 2013 following an earlier revelation that the original presiding judge was addicted to pain pills during the trial.
After more than three days of testimony, jurors werehanded the case at 2 p.m. Thursday.
They took more than eight hours between Thursday night and Friday morning to reach a decision.
In Count 17 for the murder of Chris Newsom, Thomas was found guilty of a lesser charge – facilitation of first degree murder.
Thomas could be seen shaking his head in court as the verdicts were read by the jury foreman.
After the verdict was read and the jurors exited the courtroom, family and friends of Channon and Chris began to embrace.
Just before 3 p.m., the jury came back to the courtroom for the sentencing hearing.
Attorneys make statements to start sentencing hearing
Assistant District Attorney TaKisha Fitzgerald began by laying out the charges against Thomas.
She said the heinous nature of the crimes demanded the maximum sentence.
Since Thomas was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at his original trial, he cannot receive a harsher sentence in this trial.
Fitzgerald asked that jurors give Thomas the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
Defense attorney Stephen Johnson spoke about the difficulty of the trial, both for the victims’ families, and for the family of George Thomas.
He spoke about Bridget Thomas, George’s mother, and asked that the jury think of her when deciding his fate.
Johnson asked jurors to sentence Thomas to life in prison with a chance for parole.
Families read victim impact statements
Deena Christian took the stand next to give her victim impact statement.
She spoke about her daughter as a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. Channon was a hard worker who worked two jobs while attending the University of Tennessee.
She spoke about her closeness with Channon, saying they often went shopping and got their nails done.
“She was more than just my daughter, she had become my friend,” Deena said.
She also spoke about Channon’s bond with her brother, Chase. She said if he didn’t come home from school on the weekends, more often than not Channon would go to see him.
She said Channon followed him across five states to watch Chase play baseball.
Her daughter was an excellent student, Deena said, and wanted to work with children when she graduated.
Gary Christian reminisced about seeing Channon for the first time as a newborn and seeing her little hand balled into a fist.
He spoke about his bond with Channon and how she used to bring friends home to their house.
Christian also spoke about buying Channon her 4Runner and how happy she was to receive the car. He said they made a deal that he would make her car payments if she promised to keep the car.
“She kept true to her word,” he said.
Gary sniffled through much of the testimony, holding back tears.
He recalled dancing with his daughter at a wedding and how Channon told him they’d dance again one day at her wedding.
“I will not ever dance at her wedding,” Gary said.
Mary Newsom spoke about her son as a trim carpenter who played several sports and loved life.
She talked about the devastating loss of her son, saying it had an negative impact on their family’s health and happiness.
“We will never get to hold his babies and see them,” Mary Newsom said.
Hugh Newsom recalled a time many years before when he received a call at work telling him that he would be having a little boy.
He spoke of his love of baseball and how he shared that passion with his son, spending 14 years following Chris’ games from when he was a little boy up until he graduated from school.
Newsom recalled a moment one week after Chris’ death when he saw his wife carrying a laundry basket with Chris’ dirty clothes. He asked her what she was going to do with it.
“She said ‘I’m gonna do his laundry one last time,'” Hugh said, choking up.
He said his son would have been a great father and spoke about his bond with his nieces and nephews.
“I’ve been deprived of spoiling his grandkids, my grandkids,” Hugh said.
He asked jurors to think of his family and the Christian family at Christmastime, because there would be an empty seat at their tables from now on.
Thomas’ mother takes the stand
Bridget Thomas took the stand to speak about her son, asking them to go easy on him.
“It would give me satisfaction just to know the court would have mercy on him. I understand what took place and my heart goes out to the family. But I’d like the hearts to go out to my family. That I have a son that I will not be able to see,” Bridget Thomas said.
She said that if her son were to serve a life sentence of 51 years, she would not be alive to see him released.
“I’m just asking for mercy and grace,” she said.
Jury hands down sentence
After deliberating again, the jury handed down a sentence of life in prison just before 6 p.m. He will serve 51 years in prison, but has already served five of those years.
At the earliest, Thomas would be 71 when he is released from prison.
Judge Walter Kurtz will hold a sentencing hearing on June 4 to determine whether Thomas has to serve his sentence concurrently or if they will be stacked.
Thomas could serve anywhere from 51 to 100 years, depending on how the judge hands down the sentences for the remaining counts.
After verdicts are read, families express relief
The victims’ families said Friday that they were relieved and satisfied with the results of the trial. The parents of both victims said their children finally got justice.
“Music to my ears,” Deena Christian said. “They got it right.”
“It’s a good day for us. It will not bring Chris back. It will not bring Channon back,” Hugh Newsom said.
“But they finally got peace,” Mary Newsom said, responding to her husband.
Friday marked the 302nd time the Newsoms and Christians have been in the courtroom seeking justice for their children.
They hope this will be the last.
Since 2007, the families have had many restless nights and Friday’s verdict may help them sleep a little easier.
“I think we got justice today finally, and I think we can rest now,” Hugh Newsom said.
“If I could sit in there and hear guilty over and over and over, I might get a little bit of sleep,” Gary Christian said.
6 News Reporters STEPHANIE BEECKEN and ALEXIS ZOTOS, contributed to this report.