A state appeals court ruled that a man charged in the 2002 dismemberment slayings of a teenage couple in east Tennessee must defend himself in the death penalty case after repeatedly refusing to work with defense lawyers and delaying his trial.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Knoxville in a decision filed Monday sent the case against Howard Hawk Willis back to the court at Johnson City for continued proceedings, saying he has refused to cooperate and his conduct has been “egregiously manipulative.”

The state is seeking the death penalty in the killings of Adam Chrismer and Samantha Leming, both of Chickamauga. The boy’s head was found in Boone Lake and his hands were found nearby. The girl’s remains were found in a Johnson City rental storage unit.

Investigators have said Willis and the newlyweds met while they were living in Chickamauga and were involved in a sex-for-cocaine relationship. Authorities think Willis killed the newlyweds at his mother’s home after the three traveled to Johnson City in early October 2002. Walker County Messenger