Home > Crime > Christian Newsom Murders – Arrogance and Addiction Creates Pain And Anger

Christian Newsom Murders – Arrogance and Addiction Creates Pain And Anger


I’d like to blame the delay in posting this article as due to a severe bout of flu I just endured.  In actuality, I have found it extremely painful and distressing to put thought to keyboard.

For those like me who followed the 4 years of murder trials for the gruesome kidnap, torture and rapes of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, most remember the March 2011 day Judge Richard Baumgartner admitted to drug addiction and was disbarred.  The 19-year veteran of the bench was granted a diversion, (drug rehab) by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, a move that left Baumgartner’s pension intact.

I recall how sad the Judge’s situation was, but acknowledged how it is not just the homeless and unemployed who are addicted, but some of the world’s brightest.  I remember feeling terribly sad for Mrs. Baumgartner having to face the disgrace of her husband’s actions.  I believed with rehab, the family had a good shot at healing and moving forward.

Now, all hell has broken loose with the anticipated release of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report into the activities of Judge Baumgartner – truthfully, I almost became physically ill when I realized the magnitude of flagrant disregard of the law, but not just by Baumgartner, but fellow jurists, LE, medical personnel and the judge’s own staff.

Baumgartner did not become a crazed drug addict overnight.  He was enabled by his own friends and colleagues!

We now know, Baumgartner was abusing drugs to the tune of some 30 pills a day.

Some of his drugs of choice were: Hydrocodone, Percocet, Roxy’s (Roxycodone), Xanax, Suboxone (to alleviate addiction to opiates – Baumgartner had maxed his retirement and was out of money)

Is this a full list?  Who really cares, it shows the extent to which Baumgartner had fallen.

The former judge reportedly doctor-shopped and associated with at least two convicted criminals in order to get the painkillers.

Baumgartner obtained much of that medication from Deena Castleman, who was a drug addict herself. Baumgartner apparently visited her in the hospital, where the two did drugs. Drugs were found hidden in her room in a flowerpots and in ceiling panels, so you know she had outside help! The report said he also used drugs and had sex with her inside his chambers.

Sex?  It’s not like Baumgartner is in a league with Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt!

His other go-to supplier was another convict, Christopher Gibson, who supplied Baumgartner with hundreds of pills.

Both Castleman and Gibson were participants in a drug program run by Baumgartner’s court.  The TBI report also indicate Baumgartner had no scruples in asking colleagues to bend the rules for the habitual criminals on subsequent offenses.

A distraught Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood (the same judge who allowed Baumgartner to keep his pension) has granted motions for new trials for all four of the defendants convicted in the murders of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.

Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman — have all been sent back to prison, where they will stay through the new trials.

Because of the double jeopardy rule, none can be found guilty of any higher crime than their previous convictions. That means only Davidson is again eligible for the death penalty.

This week, Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols after conferring with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and discussing it with the families of the victims, Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, said he will file appeals of the Blackwood ruling granting new trials in the Christian Newsom murders.

The motion must be filed shortly after the New Year is based on some of Baumgartner’s other cases have been upheld after review.

So what are we left with?  Questions upon more questions!

Why did none of the defendant’s legal teams question Baumgartner’s proceedings prior to the release of the TBI report?  They didn’t seem to have problems during the trials.

What is the price to the Christian and Newsom families having to relive this nightmare 4 times over again?

What is the price to prosecutors Leland Price and Takisha Fitzgerald and their team who spent 4 long years in court?

Why is Baumgartner still receiving his pension?

What is the price to taxpayers for these retrials?

What the hell was the court and legal community doing casting a blind eye toward Baumgartner’s obvious addiction and abuse of office?

Where do we go from here?

Reactions to new trial ruling.

Judge grants new trials in the Channon Christian, Chris Newsom murders

Knox County DA to appeal new Christian-Newsom trials ruling

  1. trialwatcher
    12/16/2011 at 4:02 pm

    Words simply cannot describe how awful this situation is. I feel so bad for the Christians and Newsoms who thought they had put the nadir of their lives behind them. I believe very strongly in the American justice system and I’m glad that the perps will get a “fair” trial but Blackwood failed to deliver justice in Baumgartner’s case. There is no way that a judge like Baumgartner didn’t know what he was getting into or what the consequences of his actions would be.

  2. donchais
    12/16/2011 at 7:45 pm

    I am stunned beyond belief by Baumgartner’s lawlessness and recklessness – the taxpayers should not be paying his pension – shame on Judge Blackwood!

  3. ritanita
    12/17/2011 at 4:03 pm

    I certainly hope and pray that Blackwood’s ruling will be overturned. Looking back, we clearly saw that he was not 100% and discussed what was wrong with him. However, I also recall discussions that Baumgartner’s decisions on the bench seemed to be fair and by the law.

    It would seem that Blackwood’s decision was more a knee-jerk reaction to the situation than a careful analysis of the trial transcripts.

    Hoping a praying that the Newsome’s and the Christian’s don’t have to sit through another four trials.

    As for the pension business, words fail me!

  4. donchais
    12/18/2011 at 6:59 am

    The pension is $4900 per month or $58,800 per year!

  5. 12/18/2011 at 8:57 am

    I for one don’t understand this “Dr. Shopping.” I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia years ago. I am on Lyrica and Hydrocodone. I say this because my insurance stays on this. They seem to be privy to all the medications I take. Do some get by with “Dr. Shopping” if one doesn’t have insurance? I tried to get my Hydrocodone a week early because I was traveling out of my state, and knew I’d be late on picking then up… They wouldn’t allow it. (I felt like a junkie) I then had to call my Dr. to get it authorized for early pickup. I understood it. But a WEEK???? I have a visit scheduled for a Poditrist this month due to severe foot pain. He is going to be testing me for Neuropathy. And I am not a diabetic. Been tested for that. It’s really scary to me. I hate taking any kind of meds. After all I am a “HEALER.” Anyways, if all insurance companies were like mine. Maybe no one would be getting by with “DR. SHOPPING”

    This is another case that was just shocking, heartbreaking and so very disturbing. How in the word can people sleep at night with those visual of what they did to these two people. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

  6. donchais
    12/18/2011 at 9:35 am

    shyloh, if you can find a doc to write an illegal Rx, ya can find a pharmacist to fill it illegally.

    The jurors from the Lemarcus Davidson have all spoken out in anger and said they voted death based on evidence, DNA and expert testimony. THEY made the call, not Baumgartner. They are supporting not allowing retrials, see


    Good luck with your health issues!

  7. ritanita
    12/18/2011 at 1:52 pm

    Quoting from the article in your reply:

    “Judge Blackwood said Baumgartner was incapable or failed to serve as the presiding judge in the cases.”

    I would love to know some more details of his decision. Does he cite specific examples of judicial misconduct in terms of poor rulings? Did he allow testimony that should have been barred?

    While Baumgartner’s drug addiction and poor decisions as to how to get drugs affect the outcome of the case?

    Shyloh, I also have FM and was in a similar situation as you not long ago. I would have to go a month without hydrocodone due to circumstances beyond my control (as in a major mix-up of doctors by the pharmacy). I was told by my prescribing doctor to get a prescription from one of my other doctors. I was too embarassed to ask because I felt it was sort of doctor shopping, which I would never do. At another doctor appointment, I mentioned my situation and why I wouldn’t ask. This doctor volunteered to give me a short-term prescription and told me to fill it at another pharmacy so that my ORIGINAL pharmacy wouldn’t make another mix-up! It was okay with my medical plan because I take less than prescribed anyway.

    Obviously, Baumgartner must have built up a tolerance for the drugs he might have started taking for a legitimate reason long ago. No honest doctor would ever prescribe 30 oxycontins a day. They are closely monitored by the FDA.

  8. donchais
    12/18/2011 at 5:11 pm

    Supposedly the addiction started with foot surgery just prior to the beginning of the trials for these 4 low lives…who knows?

    Judicially, I am of the opinion, the rulings were sound and the verdicts were just as rendered by the jurors. There is still so much that is yet to be seen.

    For the sake of the families and all involved…let’s pray the verdicts are upheld and that’s the end of it!

  9. ritanita
    12/20/2011 at 7:11 am


  10. David In TN
    12/28/2011 at 6:16 pm

    I attended three days of the Coleman trial and the sentencing hearings for Davidson and Coleman, along with one of the motions hearings this year. I saw Baumgartner fall asleep once during testimony, but he WAS in control of the proceedings.

    Judge Baumgartner’s motivation throughout seemed to be to give the defendants every break in order to have the trials done once and not appealed. As it turned out, that very thing has happened, but maybe not.

    I don’t see why the Cobbins verdict shouldn’t be upheld. The jury came from Nashville, he escaped the death penalty, he had an excellent attorney, and he even testified. The evidence, including DNA, was conclusive. Cobbins actually torpedoed the defense his attorneys carefully built for him when he took the stand and admitted to raping Channon.

    The higher courts are inclined to let a verdict stand in a case like Cobbins when they get life without parole, rather than a death sentence.

    Davidson got a death sentence, but his guilt was the most obvious through DNA and other evidence. For example, he was wearing Chris Newsom’s shoes when captured. Davidson’s defense was to portray the victims as druggies who caused their own deaths. I’m afraid we will have to go through it again.

    The Cobbins verdict has the best chance of staying as is. I expect Thomas and Coleman to be retried. Ironically, Coleman will be easier to convict with facilitation the only charge that can be brought. The diary entry and her having Channon’s belongings are still conclusive evidence of her participation.

    It is hard to say one murder case is worse than another, but I think the Christian-Newsom torture murders are the worst I have ever known of and I go back to Manson. Having them tried AGAIN, makes it the worst in my opinion.

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