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Trial date set for accused killer Willis

February 15th, 2007 10:24 pm by DEE GOODIN

JOHNSON CITY - A man accused of killing two teenagers in Johnson City in 2002 is closer to facing a trial.

Earlier this week, Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown entered into the court record that he has scheduled the trial of Howard Hawk Willis to begin on Oct. 29. Prosecutors and defense attorneys believe the trial will take two weeks.

Willis, a Johnson City native and a former Chickamauga, Ga., resident, is charged in the deaths of Adam Chrismer, 17, and his wife of two months, Samantha Leming, 16.

Prosecutors maintain Willis killed the teenagers three days apart in October 2002 at his mother's 104 Brentwood Drive home. They also maintain Willis dismembered Chrismer's body and manipulated his wife's body in such a way that she would fit into a plastic container.

Chrismer's body, minus his head and hands, was also in a plastic container. Both were found in a downtown Johnson City storage unit after Chrismer's head, then his hands were found in Boone Lake.

Willis is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of abuse of a corpse. Willis faces one charge of first-degree murder and one charge of abuse of a corpse in another jurisdiction.

After already firing several of his appointed attorneys, Willis has been warned by Brown not to fire Gene Scott or T. Wood Smith, his current attorneys, or he would be representing himself.

The most recent delays in the case have been caused by mental health evaluations. Because of Willis' reported lack of cooperation, he was sent to a Nashville facility.

When Willis last appeared before Brown, the judge reviewed the results of the evaluation by the Middle Tennessee facility. Talking to Scott, Brown said the report said Willis is competent to stand trial and does not suffer from diminished capacity.

Willis' next scheduled appearance is at 1:30 p.m. on March 19.

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