Defendant Billy Hawk, left, is led into the courtroom on the 2nd day of his murder trial in Judge Don Poole's courtroom in Hamilton County Criminal Court on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. A grand jury indicted Hawk, 62, in September for first-degree murder in the 1981 slaying of Johnny Mack Salyer.

A forensic specialist said he followed a court order to exhume the body of Johnny Mack Salyer. His University of Tennessee colleague said she examined Salyer's remains and found eight metallic objects. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent said one of those items was a .22-caliber bullet. And Hamilton County's chief medical examiner showed jurors a photo of the bullet hole that Billy Hawk allegedly put in Salyer before stuffing him into a barrel 35 years ago.

But some of Thursday's most gripping testimony in the 1981 murder trial involved Hawk's family and former friends. The testimony, often emotional, followed hard on the heels of Hawk's ex-wife telling the court on Wednesday that he dropped a rusty barrel into a lake in the weeks before Salyer's reported disappearance in late May.

Since September 2015, when Hawk was indicted on first-degree murder charges, prosecutors have said a couple living off Rocky Point Road saw a barrel floating near their dock on Chickamauga Lake on June 2, 1981. Inside, authorities found Salyer, decomposing and clad only in underwear.

Hawk's brother, Bob Hawk, said he and his wife, then-girlfriend, were dropping a boat into the water at the Chattanooga Yacht Club in May 1981. Then Billy Hawk and another person pulled into the waterway in a small fishing boat he hadn't seen before.

"I remember asking him, 'What were you guys doing?' He said, 'We were fishing.' That struck me as odd because Billy wasn't a fisherman," Bob Hawk said. Billy Hawk also didn't have any fishing reels, as far as his brother could see.

Jim Logan, one of Billy Hawk's three attorneys, emphasized that his client was boating in a very public area. "This occurred sometime in daylight, folks coming and going from the dock, open to the whole world?" he asked.

The answer was yes.

Salyer's wife, Vicki Salyer, testified about her late husband, how his drug habit forced her to move to New Albany, Ind. But otherwise, several witnesses said they either didn't know or barely met Salyer, including Wynna Williams. At the time of his death, Salyer and Hawk were co-defendants in a cocaine distribution case.

One evening, days before Salyer's body emerged, Williams said she returned to her duplex off Highway 58. At the time, she and her 2-year-old child were living there. So when she flipped on the light, the last person she expected to see was Billy Hawk, standing near her bed with a gun.

Williams and Hawk dated about seven months in late 1979 and early 1980, she said. But he didn't have keys to her apartment, she said. And she hadn't seen him in some time.

He forced her face-down on the bed, she said. He told her, "We tricked him, we took him through the woods." And then, she said, Hawk hit her in the chest and said, "I shot him."

"He said they took him and put him in a barrel and nobody would ever find him," Williams said Thursday. "His demeanor was like a wild animal. He was constantly screaming, and he kept pushing [the gun] up my nose and into my mouth."

When news broke days later of a man emerging in a 55-gallon steel drum, Williams said she received a phone call. It was Hawk on the other line. He wanted to know if she had read the papers.

"I said, 'Tell me you didn't do this,'" she said. "And he said he didn't know what I was talking about."

Bill Speek, another one of Hawk's attorneys, questioned how Williams could remember such a traumatic event in full detail but not remember specific statements she gave to police over the years. Williams countered that she only withheld information because she didn't want to get involved, that she feared for her life.

Speek said Williams told police that Hawk gave a different account of the murder. He has argued that more people were involved, including Harold "Moe" Sosebee, who is included on the state's witness list.

"He said, 'My Silverdale man stuck him right on his chest and said bam, bam, bam,'" Speek said. "Now, you don't recall telling police about the Silverdale man?"

"I do not," Williams said.

"To this day?"

"I do not," she said.

"But you recall with specificity what happened in that apartment?" Speek asked.


After her testimony, Judge Don Poole sequestered the jurors back to their hotel around 5:30 p.m. The trial continues today at 8:30 a.m. in Poole's courtroom.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or Follow @zackpeterson918.