Investigators search storage unit for clues about Boone Lake body parts

By Abby Morris
Star staff

JOHNSON CITY -- Washington County Sheriff Fred Phillips said Wednesday evening that his investigators are searching a Johnson City storage unit for more clues to the murder of two teenagers whose severed body parts were found in Boone Lake Friday night.
   Phillips said a search was being conducted at a storage unit facility located at the corner of State of Franklin Road and Buffalo Street in Johnson City. As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the investigation was suspended without results until crime scene analysis could begin again Thursday morning.
   "We are waiting on the TBI and local crime lab, and the investigation will begin again at 8 a.m Thursday," he said.
   Meanwhile, investigators await forensic test results on the severed human head and two hands, possibly the remains of a missing teenage couple from Georgia, while trying to determine if a suspect in the case is linked to another disappearance.
   The body parts recently found in Boone Lake have tentatively been identified as the remains of Adam Ray Chrismer, 17, and his wife Samantha Leming, 16, both of Walker County, Ga.
   The teens' parents reported the two had been missing since Oct. 6. Investigators believe the head discovered on Friday by a fisherman near the boat dock of Winged Dear Park is that of Chrismer and the hands, discovered at Knob Creek Boat Dock just south of DeVault Bridge, belong to Leming.
  Officials at the Bradley County (Tenn.) Sheriff's Department believe the teens' disappearance may be linked to the disappearance of Samuel Johnson Thomas, 70, of Cleveland, Tenn.
   "We believe there is a relationship between those murders and the missing person here," said BCSD Public Information Officer Capt. Chip Bryant.
   Investigators from the BCSD are helping the Washington County Sheriff's Department in the investigation.
   "If Thomas is deceased, and if the same person committed all three murders, then there is a good chance that Thomas' body could be discovered in Washington County," Bryant said. "That is why our investigators are there."
   According to search warrants issued in Washington County, Bradley County investigators inspected the Thomas residence in Cleveland after he was reported missing. Officers discovered blood in the sink area, on a stairwell, and in the garage.
   Thomas' step-son Howard "Hawk" Willis, 51, of Chickamauga, Ga., is being held on federal charges of bond violation. On Sept. 5, BCSD officers allegedly saw Willis using credit cards belonging to Thomas in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
   Willis was out on a $28,000 bond after being arrested two years ago and charged with transporting 2,600 pounds of cocaine in New York.
   Willis is also reportedly the last person to see the young couple alive.
   Teresa Chrismer, mother of Adam Chrismer, told authorities she had seen her son and his wife in the last week of September in a Jeep Cherokee. She also stated that she had spoken with her son over the phone on Oct. 1, and he told her he was staying at Willis' mother's residence in Johnson City.
   Willis was arrested for bond violation on Friday at the home of relatives in Johnson City. It was not until later that authorities began to suspect he may be involved in the disappearances.
   Willis appeared before the U.S. District Court in Greeneville Tuesday where he waived an identity hearing and was ordered to be transported to New York to answer to the bond violation warrant. He has not been charged with any connection to the murders.