Man charged for gruesome slaying of Georgia couple

By Abby Morris
STAR STAFF
amorris@starhq.com

   Howard "Hawk" Willis, 51, of Walker County, Ga., was charged Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abuse to a corpse for the slaying of a teenage Georgia couple whose remains were found in Boone Lake and inside a storage facility in downtown Johnson City earlier this month.
   "This is probably the most brutal murder I've ever been involved with," said District Attorney General Joe Crumley. "In all likelihood, we will file that we'll be seeking the death penalty."
   As of Wednesday afternoon, autopsies on Adam Chrismer, 17, and his 16-year-old wife Samantha Leming were not complete, but according to Washington County Sheriff Fred Phillips, the preliminary cause of death on Leming is a gun shot wound to the back of the head. Pathologists determined that Leming was not pregnant as had been eluded to earlier by authorities.
   Phillips also stated that when investigators found Leming's body, the girl's hands were bound behind her back. "That leads us to believe there was some other abuse as well," he said. "We can only speculate as to what went on by the condition we found her in."
   Crumley stated that the preliminary dates of death for the couple were Oct. 6 for Chrismer and Oct. 9 for Leming.
   According to Phillips, there is still evidence that needs to be processed and, depending on where that evidence points, there may be additional charges filed.
   Phillips said the investigation had turned up a roll of film which was developed at a local film processing center in Willis' name. A search warrant was issued for the film, and investigators collected it. According to Phillips, the film contained photographs of Willis with Chrismer and Leming. "One picture could be considered pornographic," Phillips said. "She (Leming) was nude and male body parts were exposed."
   Neither Phillips nor Crumley would address a possible motive for the murders, stating that it would be pure speculation at this time.
   Willis is scheduled to make his first appearance in Criminal Court to face these charges on Nov. 19. He is currently being held in the maximum security portion of the Washington County Detention Center. Willis is supposed to be transported to New York on Monday to face charges of bond violation in that state, but there is a possibility that the New York judge will allow prosecutors in Washington County to send Willis to trial in Tennessee first.
   "As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to keep him here," Crumley said.