It took a Morgan County jury less than 45 minutes to find Christopher Falls guilty of the First-Degree Felony Murder in the 2022 death of his girlfriend, Julia Manning. Falls stole Manning’s 2005 Subaru Forrester and drove across the country to Utah where he checked himself in to a VA medical facility. Upon his discharge he worked his way back East where he was finally found at a homeless shelter in Illinois. He was then taken into custody and extradited by Russell Johnson’s District Attorney General’s Office and Morgan County Sheriff Wayne Potter to face prosecution for the theft and murder.
Julia Manning had not been seen or heard from by friends and family for over two weeks after Falls took off from Morgan County. On July 7th a close friend went by Manning’s Lancing residence, made entry, and discovered Manning’s badly decomposed body along with her four dogs. Sheriff Potter’s investigators began an investigation assisted by TBI Agents who were predicated to join the investigation by District Attorney Johnson.
The investigation revealed that neither Manning’s boyfriend, Christopher Falls, nor her Subaru had seen since some neighbors saw Falls leave in the vehicle approximately two weeks previous. This was significant because her neighbors informed the investigators that Manning was adamant about not letting anyone, including Falls, ever drive her car.
The TBI and the Sheriff’s Department utilized multiple resources including cell phone data and license plate reader cameras to track Falls from his then two-week-old flight from Morgan County. TBI entered Falls into its ‘Most Wanted’ list. Ultimately on July 21st the Galesburg, Illinois Police Department encountered Christopher Falls when they received a call that Falls was staying at a shelter and causing a disturbance. Due to the TBI Most Wanted notification, the Galesburg PD became aware that Christopher Falls had a warrant out for his arrest for the murder of Julia Manning.
Forensic scientists with the TBI analyzed and inventoried the recovered vehicle that belonged to Julia Manning. During that process, a backpack belonging to Falls contained a box that the State prosecutors argued at trial that Christopher Falls used to store Julia Manning’s driver’s license, as well as credit, debit, Social Security, and voter registration cards, along with other items personal to Julia Manning. State witnesses testified these were items that Manning always kept in a wallet in her purse. These witnesses also reiterated that Julia Manning never let anyone, especially Christopher Falls, drive the Subaru that her father had purchased for her.
After the crime scene was analyzed, the body of Julia Manning was sent for an autopsy. Due to the state of decomposition, the body had to be sent to UT forensic anthropologist, Dr. Murray Marks. Dr. Marks’ determined that Julia Manning’s mandible was fractured in two spots, causing a complete separation. Additionally, the left hyoid bone was broken along with several fractures to each individual vertebrae consisting of the C1-C5 on her spine. The testimony of Dr. Marks was helpful in explaining how her neck had to have been physically and violently twisted, resulting in her death.
The case was prosecuted by ADA Bob Edwards and ADA Jonathan Edwards with the assistance of victim witness coordinator, Tami Bailey.
Jonathan Edwards echoed the many witnesses who testified how Julia Manning would have given anyone the shirt off her back (if not her Subaru). Instead, Christopher Falls had taken the shirt off of Manning. The significance being that her shirt was wrapped over her head. ADA Bob Edwards, in closing argument talked about the circumstantial nature of the State’s proof but offered that the witness testimony left only Christopher Falls as the perpetrator of Manning’s heinous death.
Falls has been in continuous custody since he was apprehended in Illinois on July 21, 2022. With the jury finding the defendant guilty of first-degree felony murder, Morgan County Criminal Court Judge immediately sentenced Falls to serve sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Corrections with parole eligibility after serving no less than fifty-one years. A sentencing hearing has been set for October 7, 2024, for the theft of property conviction.
Lenoir City Attorney Walter Johnson represented the defendant.
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