Curtis Durall Newsome’s only defense was that he didn’t really mean to kill his pregnant girlfriend Caneya “Candy” Webb.
Newsome never denied he killed her, but said he jealously “snapped” June 28, 2013, after finding another man had contacted her through Facebook.
When she scoffed at his suspicions, he punched her so hard in the back of her head she lost consciousness, strangled her until she was dead, bound her ankles and wrists with computer cord and left her face-down in the bathtub of her Edmond Estates apartment in Phenix City, he said.
It was not intentional or deliberate, just an instant, spontaneous act of rage, he argued in his defense.
A Russell County jury of seven men and five women didn’t buy it, and after just a few minutes deliberation Thursday found Newsome guilty of murder. Circuit Judge Al Johnson set Newsome’s sentencing for 9 a.m. Aug. 22.
Assistant District Attorney Max Smith said he will ask that Newsome be sentenced to life without parole.
Smith’s closing arguments Thursday persuaded the jury Newsome’s actions were not those of a betrayed lover who simply lost control of his emotions.
Newsome testified he did not bind Webb’s wrists and ankles with computer USB cord until he knew she was dead. He could not explain why he would bother to restrain a corpse.
Smith said the evidence proved Webb was alive when bound: A forensic pathologist testified her autopsy showed internal bleeding at the wrists, so she struggled against her restraints.
Newsome must have tied Webb up before he strangled her to death, Smith said, so the suspect had ample time to reconsider what he was doing, and could not have acted in the heat of passion.
According to testimony, Newsome checked Webb’s cell phone while she was in the shower and confronted her about the Facebook messages when she came out. When she discounted his suspicions, he slapped her. She then took a swing at him and missed, and tried to walk away.
He punched her in the head from behind and choked her against the bedroom wall. Then they fell onto the bed, where blood gushed from her mouth as she twitched and gurgled.
Newsome said he got a trash bag from the kitchen to cover her face, held it there until she quit moving, then bound and left her face-down in the tub.
Smith argued Newsome first tied Webb up on the bed while she twitched, then went to get the trash bag to cover her head before he strangled her to death.
Regardless of when he tied Webb up, Newsome’s stopping to retrieve a trash bag is evidence he wasn’t acting thoughtlessly, Smith said, pointing to statements Newsome made to police such as: “She went unconscious, and then she came back. That’s why I put the bag over her head.”
Newsome’s defense attorney, Eric Funderburk, told the jury Webb and Newsome visited friends the night she was killed, and were on good terms when they left the friends’ home around 1 or 1:30 a.m.
He noted Webb’s next-door neighbor likely heard the assault, having been awakened at 2:17 a.m. by loud noises coming from Webb’s home. Newsome began calling a friend from Webb’s cell phone just minutes later, leaving little time for a premeditated murder, Funderburk said.
But the definition of “intent” as Johnson defined it for the jury required no prolonged consideration:
“The requisite element of intent to cause the death of another person can be formed in an instant.”
Johnson told jurors “premeditation and deliberation may exist and be entertained” while Newsome had Webb by the neck.
After leaving Webb’s body in the bathtub, Newsome locked the apartment and headed for Atlanta in Webb’s red Ford Explorer, taking with him some of his possessions along with her purse, cell phone and keys.
Newsome testified he was going to Atlanta to see the daughter, then 3, whom he and Webb had together. The girl was with relatives there.
Newsome got as far as Interstate 85 between I-185 and Hogansville before a Troup County deputy stopped him for impeding traffic in the passing lane and arrested him for driving on a suspended license.
From 25 to 30 of Webb’s relatives attended Newsome’s four-day trial, enduring explicit crime-scene photos and graphic accounts of how Webb died.
“It’s more graphic than I imagined,” said Jacqueline Key of Phenix City, Webb’s great aunt. “I tried to hold back my tears as much as possible.”
Among the more gruesome testimony was that of Alabama forensic pathologist Stephen Boudreau, who Tuesday said Webb was strangled with such force the pressure of her constricted blood flow caused a severe hemorrhage in one eye, the bleeding so profuse her eye turned black and bulged out.
He also noted a traumatic blow to the rear, right side of Webb’s head, leaving a deep bruise, and said his examination determined Webb was pregnant, her womb containing a fetus 5 millimeters long.
Newsome testified Thursday that he knew Webb had been pregnant, but thought she’d had an abortion before their fatal confrontation. After Thursday’s verdict, Funderburk told reporters Newsome felt “remorse” for having murdered the mother of his 4-year-old daughter. Webb also has a 5-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son, relatives said.
Funderburk said Newsome also has two other children who are not Webb’s.
Newsome, 29, has multiple felony convictions dating back to 2004. Photos taken after his arrest last year showed his torso is covered in prison tattoos.
Georgia Department of Corrections records show Newsome has five convictions for burglary, three for being a convicted felon with a firearm, three for possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it, and one for possessing marijuana.
Records show he last was released from prison on Dec. 31, 2012.
Testimony in his trial showed he and Webb had a rollercoaster relationship with precipitous highs and lows during which they would break up and then reconcile. They were living together in January 2013, but still had disputes.
During questioning Thursday, Smith referred Newsome to a Facebook exchange of May 21, 2013, when Webb, 26, wrote that if their relationship had not improved by the time her apartment lease was up, she would leave him.
Newsome denied he faced such an ultimatum, saying they had worked those differences out: “We talked and we was back together,” he testified.
He said they got along well from then until the night he strangled her to death.