Home > Crime > Vanessa Coleman Trial – Day 5

Vanessa Coleman Trial – Day 5


A weary Judge Baumgartner holds his head

Random thoughts…

It was an extremely contentious day, yesterday, with lots of raised voices, objections, and tempers flaring.

We only got to 2 witnesses, the 2nd of which, ATF Agent Bernard Waggoner is still on redirect and will more than likely take up the majority of the morning.  I fully expect there will be a lengthy re-cross when Ms. Fitzgerald is done with redirect.

The Judge had to issue several warnings and scolded both sides not to cross the line.

Deena and Gary

When things got a bit out-of-hand during Lavit’s cross of Waggoner, the Judge cautioned the entire courtroom to keep their grumblings and comments to themselves.

With any luck, the immunity issue will be tabled today and we can move on to Dr. Larry Miller, the handwriting analyst who examined Nessie’s journal.

If I am correct, there will be a few more quick witnesses that should leave the interview by Knoxville PD Detective Todd Childress, DNA testimony, and the Medical Examiner.  I do have my doubts that the Case in Chief will be completed today!

Expect today to be another bumpy ride!

Coleman is brought in.  Today she has on another black blouse, short-sleeved.

9:03  The jury enters

ATF Agent Waggoner takes the stand and we resume the Jan 31 tapped interview of Vanessa Coleman.

Latisha has Waggoner confirm the transcripts and tapes were accurate.

We go through the notes and interviews.  Vanessa doesn’t claim she had ever been threatened, then she claims Davidson threatened her after she saw him kill Channon and she said she was going to call the police.  She repeats that statement a second time.  In the final interview she said that Cobbins slammed her against the wall in the back bedroom and she cut her ankle and her head swelled up and threatened to kill her – this is the first time she indicated the supposed assault.

Vanessa Coleman listens to testimony

Waggoner saw her Jan 11 at the Lebanon police station and she never told him about a cut on her ankle or her head being swollen, nor did Waggoner see any evidence of that.

Did you ask her if Cobbins raped or killed the girl?

Yes and she calmly replied no sir.

Lavit to do re-cross

He asks about Xavier Jenkins.  Waggoner says he never met him.

Ms. Fitzgerald yesterday was doing the math for you and held up two fingers and said there where only two people in the house and that would be Ms. Christian and Vanessa Coleman.

Yes sir.

Now look at the 50-page document.

Did Vanessa tell you Channon was in the house, she was in the house, and Cobbins was in the house?

Fitzgerald interrupts and asks if this is when Jenkins was outside Waste Connection – Lavit says yes.

Why can’t he ask a simple question correctly?

Now Lavit says, I’m sorry, I meant look at the Jan 17 notes!!!

On page two, doesn’t it say Rome stayed in the house?

Yes sir.

It is interesting that with all these conflicting interviews Mr. Lavit expects us to believe every word Vanessa uttered!

Lord…Lavit is asking Waggoner to confirm Todd Childress’s part of the interview!!!!

Childress will be testifying.

Interview notes – “They talk about blood on Davidson’s sweater.  Then Vanessa says, ‘G’ had a bloodstain on his shirt.”

“Where was Rome?  He didn’t go with them that time.”

Lavit – do you remember that?

I said yesterday I stepped out of the interview several times, the interview was conducted by the police department.

Now Lavit is trying to get Waggoner to comment on Jenkins testimony when Waggoner wasn’t even in court for that testimony!

Judge calls Lavit to the bench…think he’s had enough already!

Holy crap!  Lavit now asks him to assume Chris is in the 4-Runner and Eric Boyd is there.  So now he insinuates there were actually 3 people in the house, not two.

The Judge interjects, ‘it’s a hypothetical question’.

Now Lavit moves on to the original interview.

You told Ms. Fitzgerald Vanessa never said she was threatened in that interview.  Did you ever ask her if she had been threatened?

Waggoner says no.

Now Lavit makes Waggoner write on the flip chart for 3 of the interviews, the question was not asked!!!!

You told the jury that Vanessa lied.  How could she lie if you never asked her?

This is a shameful display of badgering and bullying a witness.  Makes me wonder what the jury thinks about all of this!

You said that you did not find any blood on the wall in the bedroom?  At that time she hadn’t given you a statement about being assaulted by Mr. Cobbins?

No sir.

So you weren’t looking for her blood?


Jury questions

Whatever the questions are, there is some kind of issue, and the Judge sends the jury out!

The Judge went to break before the jury questions are responded to.

Ritanita has a great point:

Lavit asks Waggoner if he asked Coleman if she had been threatened.  Duh!  Think about it, WHY would he ask her that?  It would have put the idea in her head.

W:  Did x threaten you?

V:  Oh yeah!  I was afraid for my life!

The fact she was the first to mention it is important, because it didn’t come out spontaneously from HER!  It took her a while to realize the situation she was in and came up with her strange story about cutting her ankle on the picture-nail.

A good investigator avoids feeding alibis or mitigating circumstances to a witness.

Back to the jury question issues

The jury asks to have the transcripts and the Judge says, if both sides agree.

Some of the questions will not be asked because they are inappropriate to the testimony.

Jury wants to know who the Federal agent is sitting behind the prosecution.

Jury wants to know about the journal – we have a witness coming up!

Bernard Waggoner is finally released as a witness.

I’m sure he is running out of there at break-neck speed!

Chief Robert Waggoner is called to the stand.  Same last name, different witness but is related to Bernard Waggoner!  Asst. Chief Deputy, Knox County Sheriffs Department

Price on direct

Waggoner went to Lebanon to conduct a search of Natosha’s house.  He says that Natosha told them not to search her daughter’s room, so they complied with her wishes.

He helped search the utility room.

Waggoner was in charge of custody of the evidence, which he later transported to the Sheriff’s Department property room.

He was there when the red purse was recovered.  He sealed it up in a box with all the contents inside.

No questions from the defense

Officer McKenzie Allemen – Knox County Sheriffs Department, Forensics.  She logged the evidence Waggoner brought in.  She examined the evidence and took a photo of the items in the red purse.

The Knoxville PD eventually picked up the red purse and it’s contents.

She identifies the items in evidence.

No defense questions.

Yesterday, Lavit was asked if he needed the Sabbath off and he said no, working Saturday was fine.  He said he is not a practicing Jew.

Suddenly at lunch, he found religion has now decided he wants the Sabbath off!!! Pretty damn sleazy is my opinion; this is an out of county jury – total disrespect for them and the Judge! So, no court session tomorrow.

Frank Nauss, Knox County Sheriff Department.  He reviews the incoming and outgoing mail at the jail.  They do not review any legal mail.

If a letter sent to an inmate’s parents, is it screened?


A May 23rd letter of Vanessa’s was copied because she was part of an ongoing investigation per Homeland Security regulations.

The letter was turned over to attorneys.

He noticed on the last page of the letter had a crude diagram and stick figures and he realized it depicted information related to the crimes Vanessa was charged with.

The letter is entered as an exhibit.

The letter is read to the jury – it was to her parents.

She tells her parents she gave Channon water.  And her hand touched Channon’s hand.  She also says she checked her pulse.  I slept on sheets a couple.  I touched the bookbag she was binded with.  I used the bathroom a few times after she did.

I packed my clothes in a garbage bag and tried to leave and Cobbins had me against the wall with his hand around my throat.  Davidson came in with a gun in his hands and said he would kill me if I tried that again.

Cobbins asked me what the hell I was doing and I said I wanted to leave please.  I told him I didn’t understand why the girl was still there and where the vehicle came from.

She claims all the windows were locked and there were chairs under the doorknobs.

To me she is trying say that is how her DNA is in the house.  Btw, the chairs were under the doorknobs?  What freakin doorknobs???


Lavit asks to whom the letter was written to.  Nauss replies, I was told it was her parents.

No more questions

Investigator Todd Childress is called to the stand.  Major Crime Unit, Knoxville PD. He conducted the Jan. 18 interview with Coleman.

Childress was called to the scene where Chris’s burned corpse was found.

Vanessa rode around with Childress and pointed out the Chipman Street house, where the 4-Runner was parked.  Kassie’s apartment.  Vince Wernamont’s house.

Vanessa’s father was at the interview.  The interview was not recorded, notes were taken.

Vanessa told about several visits to Knoxville.

The last visit was the Dec. 29.  Daphne was picking up furniture and she and Davidson were arguing.

She said Davidson was very controlling.

She said Stacey Lawson was there, but left on Jan 2.

Jan 6, she said Davidson talked about robbing a bank and making some money.  Cobbins, Thomas, and Davidson, dressed in black, left for an hour or so.

When they came back they had the white female and they took her to Davidson’s bedroom and tied her up.

She said she heard Davidson tearing up sheet strips that she was tied up with and she peaked in the room and Cobbins and Thomas told her to get out.

Thomas asked what the girl was doing there.  Davidson said don’t worry, she’s a rich white girl and doesn’t want to die.

Vanessa said Boyd came over that night.

Vanessa said when she was in the shower she could hear Boyd talking in the living room.

She said Daphne came over and could hear her talking

Bingo!  You can hear the conversation in another room even when the shower was running!!!!

Vanessa claims on Sunday evening Channon was in the closet in the back bedroom – nude from the waist down.

She said the girl was walking like she was sore and with her legs wide apart.

This is supposedly when Daphne showed up.

Davidson took Channon back to the front bedroom and that was when he snapped her neck.

She saw Davidson spray bleach in Channon’s mouth.  Then he and Thomas tied her in a fetal position.

She claims she never saw the girl again.

She heard Davidson tell Thomas to get bags and get the floral fabric out of his room.

She saw the fabric on Saturday when Thomas and Davidson left for a while.  When they came back they smelled like gas.

She never heard Channon being put in the garbage can.

She stated she threatened to call the police and Davidson threatened to kill her.

She said she tried to leave on Sunday night but Cobbins took her clothes away from her.

On Sunday she cooked breakfast for everybody.

She said Cobbins told her if anything happened to him, he loved her.

She stated she was scared to death and was being held hostage.

Greene on cross.

You were driving around before the interview?


When you were driving around who was there?

Me, Vanessa, and an ATF agent.

So it was a joint investigation?

You could say that.

Well you were both collecting information and interviewing?


You drive around with any of the males in this case?


You interview any of the males with various agencies participating?

I only did one interview with Cobbins.

You are aware of several interviews with the men.  Did any of them ever implicate Ms. Coleman?

Bench conference.

Question was withdrawn.

Did you run an NCIS report when you heard Coleman’s name?

Yes, it was negative.

What does that mean?

There were no priors.

She told you when they got back to Kentucky she saw ‘G’ grabbed a towel and wipe blood of his shoes?


Did she say why?


Did you follow up on that?


Did you find a bloody towel?

I’ve never been to Hayes’s house in my life.

You were the lead agent?

For the Knoxville PD.

As lead investigator you didn’t interview everyone?

It was a Federal case at the time.

You didn’t share information with the other agencies, but they shared with you?

We all communicated the best we could.

The Judge is trying to get Greene to finish up and he does!

No more questions.

Childress is excused.

Jennifer Millsaps is called.  She is the DNA expert from TBI.  She is accepted as an expert witness by the court.

Jennifer Millsaps

Millsaps takes the jury through the science of DNA.  You don’t always get a DNA profile due to not enough sample or degradation of DNA samples.  She also describes the process to determine the sample results.

She was asked to look at evidence of bodily fluids, blood, or skin cells.

She received samples from everyone involved in this case.

She issues written reports on each of her findings and she identifies several reports that are entered as evidence.

Exhibit 1 – She examined Channon’s camisole and found areas containing spermatozoa and sperm that matched DNA of Letalvis Cobbins.

She also examined Channon’s sweater and found two stains and again the DNA matched Cobbins.

The floral fabric from Channon’s autopsy was examined and she found 8 stains.  DNA from Vanessa was found in several areas.  DNA from Cobbins was also found in several areas.  DNA from Channon was also found.

A swab from the living room wall, bedroom wall and bedroom baseboard was examined.

Blood and DNA from the walls matched Davidson.

Exhibit 2 – She examined a belt and found insufficient DNA.

Inflatable bed from the north bedroom had blood and DNA from Davidson and Daphne Sutton.

The inflatable bed from the south bedroom had blood and DNA consistent with Vanessa Coleman.

The 4-Runner contained blood and DNA from Channon and also from an unknown male.

Exhibit 3 – Channon’s blue jeans contained spermatozoa and blood from Channon and DNA from Davidson and Cobbins.

The trashcan was examined for semen and there wasn’t any.

Exhibit 4 – The white cloth strip (binding) blood and DNA found.  The blood matched Channon.  On the knotted end of the cloth, skin cells from Channon and Vanessa were found as well as a male presence that could not be identified.

Price has Millsaps reviews photos of items she examined.

Witness passed.

Greene on cross

He says skin cells are always dying so if I grab this envelop I leave cells behind?


So if you’re sleeping on it you could leave behind skin cells?


On the floral fabric, you found non-sperm from Vanessa Coleman and Channon and the sperm from Cobbins?


So if you slept on it and had sex on it that wouldn’t be unusual?


The blood on the inflatable bed from the south bedroom was Vanessa’s?


Now he asks about the tape lifts on the white knotted cloth.  You found Vanessa and Channon’s DNA in area one and Cobbins, Vanessa, Daphne Sutton, and Channon in the others?


The point of Greene’s cross is that Vanessa only left DNA was because she was living in the house.

No further questions.

Price asks about the swabs she tested.

The vaginal swab of Channon contained Channon’s DNA and Davidsons sperm.

The anal swab contained Channon’s and Davidson’s sperm.

Oral swab contained semen Cobbins and Channon’s DNA.

The anal swab from Chris contained spermatozoa that could not be identified.

The defense has no questions.

Millsaps is released.

Dr. Larry Miller, the handwriting analyst is up.  He goes through his CV.  Has been forensically examining of document for 28 years.  He is accepted as an expert witness by the court.

He compared Vanessa’s journal and a letter she wrote.

Price shows him the journal and Vanessa’s letter that he identifies as the evidence items he examined.

He also identifies the report he prepared.

He found there was no significant difference between the letter and the journal.  He states he positively identified the author and that is the highest level of comparison.

A slide is put up on the screen with the journal and letter shown side-by-side.  M’s and numbers match.  The word Vanessa is written the same in each.  Several words and letters are the same height and width and spacing is the same.  B’s, R’s, and C’s are the same.

Lavit just jumped up and asked to approach the bench!

Miller continues his testimony showing additional comparisons.

Ain’t no doubt Vanessa wrote the journal!

Miller is reading the journal to the jury.

The first few pages are silly doodling.

Her Jan 9 entry says she loved the fun and adventures she has had in Tennessee.

She talks about being driven back to Kentucky by a crack head.

The journal is moved into evidence.

Cross by Lavit

The page about the ride home, on the opposite are 3 phone numbers?


Looks like another person wrote that?

It could be with that page; I had nothing to compare that with.

So it wasn’t the author of the journal?

I can’t say that with certainty.

No more questions

5:10 the day is concluded.

No court tomorrow.

The last prosecution’s witness is the Medical Examiner who will be held over till Monday.

Remember my ‘meat and potatoes’ analogy?  I’m betting days 4, 5, and 6 of this trial turn out to be the gravy!

  1. David From TN
    05/08/2010 at 12:46 am

    I arrived at the Knoxville courthouse on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 PM. Court was resuming after break. I passed the security check by 3 Knox County deputy sherrif and went in. This is the first trial I have ever seen despite being a true crime junkie for decades. I saw 3 hours on Wednesday and all day Thursday and Friday.

    This afternoon (Friday), we were on the edge of out seats as handwriting expert Larry Miller prepared to read the diary entry. I don’t have the words in front of me but VC wrote of her “Great adventure in the big TN.” I think she also wrote “Ha Ha.” We in the courtroom audience felt it wrecked the defense Lavitt had put up on cross examination the last two days.

    The validity of the writing wasn’t a close call. Coleman has a distinctive style of forming some letters and a lay person can see that VC wrote it. After a brief and ineffectual cross, Lavitt looked defeated to me. The jury asked no questions, perhaps out of shock.

    The first two days, both inside and outside the courtroom, I would be right next to the Christian and Newsom families. I didn’t speak to them. I am a shy person and didn’t know what to say. On Friday morning Mr. Newsom spoke to me and I told him I was there to support them. During a break Friday, I left the courtroom and held the door open for a lady behind me. She said, “Thank you sir.” It was Deena Christian. I spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Newsom again after the day ended. They are wonderful people. I don’t know how they bear up as they do. You can tell what Channon and Chris were like.

  2. ritanita
    05/08/2010 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for the great coverage, donchais!

    I was a bit disappointed with the journal contents until I gave them a second thought.

    She sure didn’t sount like a frightened hostage!

  3. 05/09/2010 at 12:10 am

    Great points! I will be checking back here often!

  4. Marica
    05/09/2010 at 12:37 am

    David, It must be very comforting to the families that you attend the trial in support of them.
    The pages of the journal, seem very chilling to me. Obviously this person was NOT a hostage nor in fear for herself.

  5. David From TN
    05/09/2010 at 11:30 am

    One day I saw defense attorney Theodore Lavitt walking outside the courtroom during a break. Mary Newsom, Chris’ mother, was coming in the opposite direction. When she saw Lavitt, Mary swerved to the side giving the defense attorney a wide berth.

  6. donchais
    05/09/2010 at 11:43 am

    Thanks so much David. I’m sure it was quite the experience to be in Court.

    Kudos on supporting Channon and Chris’s families! I’m sure they were deeply touched.

  7. 05/09/2010 at 4:01 pm


    This coverage takes me back to the great trial coverage you did of the Mark Jensen murder trial.

    Great job, as usual! ❤

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