Guilty on all counts in Potter double-murder trial
JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. - The jury in the Potter double-murder trial has reached guilty verdicts on all counts: both Jenelle and Barbara Potter guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. Click here for Tennessee sentencing guidelines.
Both also guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Barbara Potter also guilty of tampering with evidence.
Both will serve life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be held June 17th to decide whether the sentences will be served consecutively or concurrently.
35-year-old Jenelle Potter and her mother 64-year-old Barbara Potter were on trial for the first-degree murders of 36-year-old Billy Payne, Jr., and 23-year-old Billie Jean Hayworth in the couple's home in 2012. They were shot to death and their 7-month-old son Tyler was found in his mother's arms.
Authorities say the convicted shooter -- Marvin "Buddy" Potter, who is husband and father of the defendants -- was taking revenge against the couple for "un-friending" Jenelle on Facebook. He is serving two life sentences in prison. Monday, assistant D.A. Brooks had said Marvin Potter killed the couple to keep Jenelle out of danger because he believed she was being threatened.
The major prosecution witness was Jamie Lynn Curd, who is Jenelle Potter's ex-boyfriend. He was supposed to be the third defendant in this case. Just before the trial, he made a plea deal and got 25 years in prison.
Curd described the evening and morning leading up the murders. He says Marvin Potter picked up Curd and parked in a church parking lot, feet from the victims' home. Marvin gave Curd a gun and told him to follow him into the home. Once inside, Marvin went into Billy Payne Jr.'s bedroom and shot him. Moments later, he walked out and into the room Billie Jean Hayworth was in and did the same. Curd said he never shot the gun.
The defense never cross-examined Curd.
Earlier, Jenelle Potter's lawyer Cameron Hyder asked Jenelle's older sister, Christie Groover, about the need to protect Jenelle. Groover said she never felt she needed to protect Jenelle because her sister always had their parents to go to. When she had a problem, they took care of it.
Also, the defense had cross-examined the validity of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's findings after drugs were found in the home of victims Bill Payne, Jr., and Billie Jean Hayworth. The prosecution countered that drugs had nothing to do with this case because autopsy reports showed no drugs were found in neither Hayworth's nor Payne's systems.
TBI agent Scott Lott showed pictures and 207 emails recovered from the Potters' computer. Jury members were each given a copy of the emails to review, to show the Potter women conspired to murder. Some phone conversations were also played. The defense asked why only specific emails and texts were pulled and analyzed, rather than all of them. They also tried to show it was possible Jamie Lynn Curd could've written and sent those emails from the Potters' computer.
Johnson County's chief deputy Joe Woodard told the jury that during the investigation, he found Barbara Potter tearing up emails and pictures. That's why she was charged with tampering of evidence and Jenelle is not.
Near the end of its case, the prosecution questioned other witnesses, focusing mainly on how Jenelle Potter friended all of them on Facebook, and then accused them all of stalking and harassing her.
In the defense case, Dr. Eric Engum told the court Jenelle Potter functions at a 4th grade level. Her lawyers were trying to prove she wasn't capable of hacking computers, or competent enough to know what she was typing through the computer.
Jury deliberations started 4pm Monday, lasted an hour, and continued Tuesday morning. This case was moved to Jonesborough because of pre-trial publicity.