Mountain City, TN

The Deadly Catfish the Resulted in Two Murders

Sam H Arnold
Jenelle PotterPhoto in public domain

Jenelle Potter was in her thirties. Due to a combination of medical conditions and strict parents, she was isolated from her peers. Moving to a new town did not make this easier, especially in Mountain City, Tennesse. Jenelle would openly state that she felt isolated as she was not born in the town.

Rather than socialise in person, Jenelle carved out a little place of her own in cyberspace. Through Facebook, she gained friends and interacted with people. So it is fair to say Jenelle spent a large amount of her time on the internet. That was until she met Tracy Greenwell.

A friendship is formed.

Tracy worked in the local pharmacy as an assistant. One day when the quiet Jenelle came to pick up prescriptions, they got talking, and she befriended the quiet girl. Tracy was eager to help Jenelle to socialise and introduce her to her friends and family.

It wasn’t an easy friendship to establish. Tracy had to visit the family home several times to be approved by Jenelle’s parents, Marvin (Buddy) and Barbara. The Potter’s were suspicious of new people and wary of letting Jenelle socialise with anyone. Finally, Tracy’s hard work paid off, and she was permitted to socialise with Jenelle outside the family home.

On one occasion, she introduced Jenelle to her brother Billy Payne who Jenelle was instantly attracted to. Unfortunately, Billy did not reciprocate the feelings. However, the friendly Billy made an effort to interact with her adding her as a friend on Facebook. He was a lovely lad who liked a few of her pictures and commented. Jenelle was smitten.

A relationship is formed.

Tracy also introduced Jenelle to an older cousin Jamie Curd; Jamie was interested in a relationship with Jenelle, who refused at the beginning due to her attraction to Billy. However, Jamie was allowed to visit the family home as he was a friend of the Potter’s and fixed their computer. Although all of them deny there was a relationship, selfies posted on Facebook tell a different story.

Jamie even provided Jenelle with a mobile phone, so the pair could talk and text in private. During this time, Jenelle started telling people that she was being bullied on Facebook. These comments were posted onto her Facebook profile, calling her vile names. She blamed Billy Jean Hayward for this; Billy Jean was Billy’s girlfriend. What began as a war of words soon turned nasty.

Cyber-bullying starts.

Around this time, a gentleman called Matt started posting hateful comments about a local site about Billy Jean and her friend Lyndsey. He started saying they were drug dealers, HIV positive and other nasty comments. Whenever anyone said anything negative about Jenelle, he was quick to support her. He was not her only support on the site; Rose was equally supportive of Jenelle, stating she was beautiful.

The comments all of the social groups blocked Jenelle from their Facebook.

The CIA become involved.

When Jenelle found out Billy Jean was pregnant, an operative from the CIA called Chris contacted both Jamie and Barbara Potter. Chris stated he was a friend of Janelle’s and was monitoring her online bullying. His job was to support and protect his friend. To Barbara, he said he was concerned for the whole family’s safety as Billy was a killer. To Jamie, he mentioned that he believed Jenelle was suicidal and needed support.

This correspondence went on for a year. Chris wanted the situation with Jenelle to improve. He stated that he would like to kill Billy and Billy Jean but could not due to work commitments. Barbara said that she wasn’t a killer, but she would if she had to. She, however, had another plan. Buddy was an ex-marine with a record of being a sharpshooter; he also had an array of guns. The Potters were described as a God-fearing, gun packing family.

The fateful morning.

Barbara decided to get her husband and Jamie together. Buddy asked Jamie if he would drive him to Billy’s house at some point. Jamie agreed. One morning he received a phone call to say that Buddy needed a lift. Text messages between Jamie and Jenelle during this time show that she knew what was happening.

The two men sat outside the house waiting for Billy’s father to leave for work. When the coast was clear, the pair approached the house. Jamie stood guard whilst Buddy entered the property.

Jamie heard a shot ring out and saw Billy Jean run to another room. Buddy had shot Billy and then slit his throat. Leaving the room, he motioned to Jamie, who pointed to where Billy Jean had gone. Billy Jean was found dead, shot through her head. She was still clutching her toddler to her chest, who was unhurt.

The murder investigation.

When the bodies were found, the police started to investigate. The crime scene yielded very few clues, with no forensics or gun cases. They commented that the murder looked like a professional hit. They soon uncovered Jamie, who had fallen out with the couple due to Jenelle. They brought him in for questioning.

After several hours of denying what had happened, he told the truth — turning state witness for a reduced sentence. He agreed to help set Buddy up. Making a phone call to him, Jamie asked if Buddy had thrown everything from Billy’s house away; Buddy replied yes. The police had enough to arrest Buddy Potter.

Once this was over, Jamie was charged; he mentioned that he was curious why Chris from the CIA had not supported their story. The police found this a strange statement.

The next arrest was Buddy; whilst the police searched the house, Barbara tried to destroy evidence, the police stopped her. They discovered that she was ripping up photos of Billy and Billy Jean, one of which had a derogative term written over it.

On searching the house, the police removed an arsenal of weapons; when they looked into Buddy’s truck, they found three bags of shredded emails. These emails, when painstakingly put back together, would prove the identity of Chris.

On interview, Buddy admitted nothing, then in a freak twist, he confessed to Barbara during a phone call.

Both Buddy and Jamie were convicted of first-degree murder. Buddy was incarcerated for two life sentences, and Jamie with one count of murder and a twenty-five-year sentence due to his participation in the case. However, this would have been the end of it if not for the work of one district attorney, Denis Brooks.

The hidden help.

It was clear that Chris had played a significant part in both the plotting and encouragement of the murders. The investigation started as to who this man was. He did not work for the CIA. The IP address was traced for the emails and was found to be at the Potter house. So, which of the women had been responsible for the emails.

Linguistic experts then analysed both the Chris emails and Jenelle’s writing style and identified a precise match. Jenelle had not only lived her life in cyberspace but had created several lives. Further research found she as also Matt and Rose, two personalities who had also abused Billy Jean. In addition, Jenelle Potter had catfished her parents into committing murder.

Jenelle Potter and her mother were both tried on charges of first-degree murder. Jenelle for catfishing her parents and Jamie. Barbara because police believed she had persuaded Buddy to commit murder. Despite the evidence only being circumstantial, both were convicted.

Jenelle had forged a life in cyberspace to fulfil her needs. However, she reacted when this life was threatened, creating several different personas and ultimately instigating a double homicide. She never held a gun; instead, her fingers had become a weapon on the keyboard in the space she occupied.

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