Transcript: 30. The Tennessee Catfishing Murders | USA

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The house at 128 James Davis Lane, Mountain City was quiet, when Roy Stephens came to collect his mail. He was always welcome at his friend Billy’s home. Billy lived with his girlfriend and their baby in his father’s house. The house was always open, and Roy usually just entered by knocking once or twice to announce his presence, before letting himself in. 


On the icy Tuesday morning, he went inside, as he had done many times before. But something was different on that day. Nobody was around, and he could hear Bill and Billie-Jean’s six-month-old baby boy, Tyler, crying from upstairs. He assumed Billie-Jean was with the baby, as she would never leave him unattended. She adored her son.


Something was not right. Dreading what he might find, Roy walked to the bedrooms, past familiar photos of the happy young family on the timbered walls of the home. As he came closer to the nursery, Tyler’s crying became louder and Roy found it strange that nobody was there to comfort him. That is, until he came to the doorway and saw one of the most terrifying scenes he had ever seen: 23-year-old Billie-Jean had been shot in the head and she was lying on the floor, still holding her baby. Tyler had his mother’s blood on his little face but seemed to be unharmed. To Roy, there was no way of knowing how long his mother had been dead and he had been without food.


In shock, Roy went to the main bedroom, where he found his 37-year-old friend, Bill. He was lying on the bed and there was blood everywhere. He had a bullet wound to his face and his neck was sliced open from one side to the other. There was no way that he could still be alive. 


What happened at this young couple’s home on this cold Tennessee winter’s day?


Intro Music


Background

The Potter family lived in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Marvin (or Buddy as he was better known) and Barbara had two daughters. Christie was six years older than Jenelle and always felt that she did not quite fit in with the rest of her family.


Buddy Potter enlisted as a marine when he was 18 years old and served in Vietnam. When he returned, he suffered a back injury and was able to claim disability. Even though he was out of work, Buddy very much still saw himself as a marine. Buddy also claimed to have worked for the CIA, but this fact had never been substantiated.


The CIA-story was something the family loved to talk about. Not too much, of course, because it was supposed to be confidential. Barbara was often heard bragging about Buddy’s time as a CIA agent. When asked about it, she would bring the drama and make it clear that she knew nothing more, that Buddy was sworn to secrecy and she would never press him for details. 


The mystery of Buddy’s CIA involvement and the respectful shadow of his military background defined the Potter family in a sense. Photos and medals from his military days were displayed in their home and he often wore baseball caps and such with the U.S. Marine Corps logo on. He usually had a firearm on his person. Anyone who met Buddy, would know about his military background straight off the bat.


Barbara was known to have a wild imagination and often had conflict with neighbours and friends. She was a strong woman with piercing eyes and together with Buddy, they controlled every aspect of their daughters’ lives.


As soon as she had finished her education, Buddy and Barbara’s eldest daughter, Christie, moved out of home and pretty much separated from her family as much as she could. 


The two parents could focus all their attention on their troubled younger daughter. You see, Jenelle was a sickly person who suffered from diabetes and anxiety. She had a learning disability and wasn’t quite on par with her peers. Throughout her entire schooling, she was in the special education class. She was never able to go out and play with friends like other kids as her parents preferred her not to.


Once she reached adulthood, her multiple health and learning issues meant that she could draw a social security disability cheque at the end of each month. Even as a near six feet (or two metre) adult, she clung to her parents – something they encouraged. Jenelle sounded child-like when she spoke, amplifying the fact that she was someone who needed special care.


In 2005, when Jenelle was in her twenties, her maternal grandmother had fallen ill and Barbara, Buddy and Jenelle relocated to Mountain City, Tennessee, so Barbara could care for her mother. Christie stayed behind in Pennsylvania with her husband.


Mountain City is situated in north-eastern Tennessee and has a population of 2,500. It’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains that border Virginia and North Carolina. It is scenic with green, wooded hills around the charming three-square-mile town.


It is the kind of town where everyone knows each other, and everyone always has time for a chat. It’s a safe place where no one locks their homes and trust one another. Most people are religious and like going to church. Visitors to the town always comment on how friendly and welcoming locals are. When you drive into the town, the sign says: 


“Welcome to Mountain City – A Friendly Hometown.”


The Potters settled into a ranch-style home, where Jenelle decorated her room, much like a fourth grader would: soft toys and posters… She was still very naïve and mentally young. Barbara and Buddy kept her close eye on her. Being on disability, she did not need to work. She also did not drive and was completely dependent on her parents. 


Concerned about her well-being, her parents monitored any social interaction Jenelle had. Not that there was much to worry about, as she mainly left home with them to go to the store, for doctor’s appointments or when they had to go to the pharmacy to top up on chronic medication. Buddy’s health was so bad at this stage, he needed an oxygen tank.


Because she was at the local pharmacy often, she became quite friendly with a young girl who worked there called Tracy Greenwell. Tracy was friendly and popular and had an extended circle of friends and family who would hang out all the time. Tracy felt sorry for Jenelle when she realised she had no friends. She was quite isolated and still lived with her parents as she was nearing the age of 30. When Tracy invited her to come along to the mall or her home. Jenelle was surprised that her parents did not stop the friendship.


Jenelle became part of Tracy’s circle of friends and suddenly found herself to be a part of something – and she loved it. In a place like Mountain City, with not much entertainment around, people love the internet. And Facebook is like their local shopping mall – it’s where they hang out. Jenelle spent a lot of time on her Facebook page and gathered friends daily. She loved getting the validation of people accepting friend requests and for the first time in her life, felt she had a multitude of “friends”, well, Facebook Friends.


Because of her fragility, her parents monitored her Facebook page. They knew exactly what was going on in Jenelle’s life. They would listen in on her phone conversations and they always knew where she was. Which was usually at home, on the computer. 


Through Tracy, Jenelle also met Tracy’s brother Bill Payne, who was an outgoing and friendly person. Bill worked at the local thread factory, a job he walked into straight after high school. Tracy had a couple of odd jobs and the siblings had no intention of ever leaving Johnson County.


Bill was popular with his friends and enjoyed partying and drinking throughout his twenties and early thirties. He also used painkillers as recreational drugs, like most of his friends. They would share and swap drugs, sometimes money exchanged hands, but not to the scale that it would be considered drug-dealing. It never went further than on-selling his prescriptions to friends and co-workers. Later on, when he reached his late-thirties, Bill realised that he did not have control over his drug-use and sought help. He started using buprenorphine, to wean himself off heavy painkillers. 


Bill met is girlfriend, Billie-Jean at work. She was a happy, always-smiling girl in her early twenties. Despite their age-gap, the couple was a match made in heaven. She was good for him and his friends noticed that he did not party and drink as much as he had done before. The happy-go-lucky Bill Payne he was ready to settle down.


Somehow, Jenelle did not realise how committed Bill was to his girlfriend. In her mind, there was a deeper connection between herself and the kind and generous Bill. The best way to describe Jenelle’s feelings at this point, would be to say she had a good, old-fashioned crush. Which also meant that she hated Bill’s girlfriend, Billie-Jean Hayworth.


Having been socially isolated for most of her life, Jenelle was far more immature than others her age. Although she was almost 30, Jenelle had the mentality of a 10-year-old girl.


But her one-sided feelings did not affect Bill and Billie-Jean. The couple were serious about each other and Bill only saw Jenelle as one of his sister’s friends. Billie-Jean moved in with Bill and his dad (known as Paw Bill) and fell pregnant in 2010. In July 2011, the couple’s son, Tyler was born.


When Jamie Curd, who is Tracy and Billy’s cousin, met Jenelle, he thought she was cute, somewhat ditsy and naïve. Before long, the two started dating. They did this in secret though, as Jenelle’s parents would not have approved. Jamie gave Jenelle a cell phone so that they could communicate without her parents’ knowledge. 


Jamie was a computer repairman and made his way into the Potter home under the rouse of fixing the family computer. Between Jenelle and Jamie, they convinced Buddy and Barbara that there was something that needed constant maintenance on the home computer, and the aging parents were none the wiser. Had they known their daughter was in a relationship with Jamie, they would never have allowed him into the home as often as they did.


Jenelle was an awkward person. The reality was, the young crowd of Mountain City included Jenelle because they felt sorry for her. But when her paranoia made her a mean and conniving person, people weren’t too keen about hanging out with her anymore. Jenelle claimed that two local women were stalking her. She went to the Sheriff’s office to file a claim against the women, stating that one of them had removed her from a section on her MySpace account, called ‘Favourite People’.


Another woman reported that Jenelle and her mother Barbara had confronted her in her home, yelled at her and threatened to punch her. This kind of reaction did not make her very popular around town. One by one, her Facebook friends started unfriending her. Jenelle did not take this digital rejection well at all. 


Buddy Potter went so far as to go to the Sheriff’s Department to tell them about somebody Unfriending Jenelle on Facebook. He was advised to encourage Jenelle to stop using Facebook, but Buddy did not do that. Sheriff Mike Reece said:


"This Facebook thing was her whole life. If you deleted her, Jenelle and her parents started harassing you. If you ran into them in the grocery store, you had an altercation with them. It was an ongoing thing with these people."


On separate occasions, two women had taken out restraining orders against Jenelle. In May 2011, the first woman claimed that Jenelle started harassing her once she unfriended her on Facebook – months before. Jenelle would call her anywhere between 5-20 times a day. In the same month, another woman came forward, claiming the exact same behaviour.


At least Jenelle still had Jamie Curd in her life, but all the while she still harboured her crush on Billy, keeping an eye on his every move. She hated Billie-Jean and kept a close eye on her too. She was quite vocal about her feelings towards the couple, even posting on Facebook that she wished Billy, Billie-Jean and their ‘damn baby’ would die. 


Jenelle had gone too far. Bill Payne did what he probably should have done a long time before and finally unfriended Jenelle on Facebook, just like Billie-Jean had done. They were young parents and were not interested in a feud with the likes of Jenelle Potter. Both of them just wanted to put the whole thing behind them and carry on with their lives.


Around this time, Jenelle told her parents that anonymous Facebook users were bulling her, threatening her with rape and violence, saying that she was ‘too pretty to live’. She was a victim of cyber bullying. Her mom, Barbara intervened by posting on Facebook on Jenelle’s behalf pleading with people NOT to write on her Facebook page anymore.


Jenelle became increasingly paranoid, telling friends that someone was out to kill her. She felt like she was under constant attack and called police when a person in a passing truck allegedly threw rocks at her parents’ house. On the rocks, somebody had written with a Sharpie, the words: Bill Payne – I am your Huckleberry and the second rock simply said: Billie-Jean.


Just when one would think things could not get any stranger in Jenelle’s life, her mother received an email from someone called Chris. Chris said that he was an old school friend of Jenelle’s. He told her that he was a widower. He loved dogs etc. The pair started a strange virtual friendship, culminating in Chris referring to Barbara as ‘mom’ and she called him ‘son’.


Then Chris revealed that he was in fact a CIA agent and that he had reached out to her because he was concerned about Jenelle. He explained that Billy and Billie-Jean were out to get Jenelle. He was a drug dealer and she was a prostitute. He revealed that the couple had plotted to rape and kill Jenelle because she was still a virgin. Of course, none of this was true, but Barbara, who had grown to trust Chris, believed every single word.


Just before 5am on the morning of January 31st, 2012, Jenelle sent her boyfriend Jamie Curd a text, saying:


“Yes, he’s leaving now, I hear the car... I love you, text ASAP when you get back.”


At the Payne home, Bill’s dad got up early to leave for work. He saw Billie-Jean briefly, as she was preparing a bottle for little Tyler. That was the last time anyone would see the young mother alive.


Moments after Paw Bill left the home, around 5:30am. Buddy and Jamie walked into the home and committed the horrendous crime. Buddy marched into the bedroom where Bill was asleep and shot him point blank in the head. 


Billie-Jean came running out of the bedroom into the hallway, screaming. Her first instinct was to run to Tyler to protect him from the gunman. She went into the nursery and picked Tyler up, out of his crib. That is when Buddy Potter found her. Without any hesitation, he shot her as she was holding her baby. Jamie Curd stood in the doorway, witnessing the whole event.


Buddy then handed Jamie a knife and instructed him to slit Bill Payne’s throat, to ensure he was no longer alive. After it was all done, Buddy took the weapons and the gloves, and they left through the sliding door at the back of the house.


Like every other day, Bill’s work friend, Brad Osborne showed up, because they drove to work together every day. He went inside – the sliding door was open as usual. It was quiet, and he called out for Bill but there was no response. He thought that Bill had gone to work already, perhaps there was a misunderstanding. So, he left, and the bodies remained undiscovered for another couple of hours.


Around 10:30 in the morning, neighbour Roy Stephens arrived to collect his mail. He would later recall his actions when he walked into the couple’s bedroom.


 “I walked up and touched Bill’s arm about right there to shake him and no response. I backed up and said, ‘No, no, no, no,’ and I realized he was dead.”


Roy was in complete shock to have found his friends’ bodies and his wife, Linda, called 911 on his behalf. 


As soon as local law enforcement were informed about the double murder, they informed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (or TBI). Murder was not a common occurrence in their small town and they needed an agency with more resources.


At first, police had to consider the possibility that the violent scene in the Payne home was a domestic situation – perhaps a murder/suicide? They started interviewing the couple’s friends and family to get a picture of their life together.


From the onset, investigators knew that this was not going to be a typical homicide case. The crime scene didn’t yield any clues – there was virtually no evidence. The post mortem examinations would also not reveal anything more than what law enforcement already knew: two young parents were shot in cold blood in their own home. Special agent Lott from the TBI was disturbed by the facts of the case. He said:


“It takes a cold-blooded person to shoot someone holding a baby.”


In a small town like Mountain City, where everyone knows everyone, it didn’t take police long to find out about the bad blood between Jenelle and the young couple. Friends of Bill and Billy-Jean all told police, independently, about the Facebook feud between the young couple and Jenelle Potter’s family. Consistently, when asked if Bill and Billie-Jean had any enemies, the answer was: The Potters. They said that Jenelle had been harassing the couple on social media for over a year.


One friend mentioned that Bill’s cousin, Jamie, was dating Jenelle and that he would probably be a good person to question. He had recently also fallen out with Bill as a result of the situation between his girlfriend and his cousin. 


Linda Stephens, the neighbour who had called 911 on the morning of the murders, worked at a local convenience store. She told investigators that she had witnessed an altercation between the Potter mother-daughter duo and Billie-Jean a couple of months before. Billie-Jean was pumping gas when the Potters pulled up next to her, shouting threats and telling her off. When Linda Stephens approached, they drove off. Billie-Jean was in tears and told Linda:


“This won’t stop. They follow me everywhere and now that I’m a mother, they say I’m unfit. They call me trash. They are constantly threatening me.”


Police went to talk with the Potters at their home and they claimed the harassment came from Bill and Billie-Jean and that Jenelle was the victim. They admitted that there was tension between them and the young couple but denied that they had anything to do with the murders. The Potters were a Christian family with conservative values and police did not think that there was anything more to it. Although online harassment occurred, they did not think that would be enough of a reason to murder anyone. Besides, despite being an ex-marine and someone who could be capable of murder, Buddy wasn’t in great shape and remember, he used an oxygen tank because of his poor health. 


Six hours after the bodies were discovered, after the visit to the Potter home, police questioned Jamie Curd at the police station. Jamie was 100% behind Jenelle in the feud, he did not take the side of his cousin. Although he confessed that Bill was like a brother to him, he did feel his actions against his girlfriend were wrong.


He denied having had anything to do with the murders. He agreed to do a polygraph test, which he failed. The question that showed the biggest deception, was:


“Do you know for sure who killed those people?”


Jamie claimed that he did not. But it was obvious that he was lying. TBI interrogators knew they were onto something and questioned him again. From the questions, TBI Agents could surmise that Jamie was quite possibly present when the murders were committed, and he probably knew who did it. They did however feel that he was not the person who pulled the trigger.


Jamie then asked investigators if the CIA was present at the police station. Interrogators found this question to be strange, but they thought Jamie was trying to distract them.  


In Jamie’s mind, he felt that he and Buddy were acting on instruction of a government official, and needed to speak to so-called Chris, to corroborate events leading up to the murders of Billy and Billie-Jean.


Police were confused and told him there was no agent and pressed him for more information. They convinced him to call the Potters and recorded the conversation. It was Barbara who picked up the phone. She was relieved to hear that he had been released (which, he hadn’t, it was just a part of his story).


“And they just let you go?”

“Yeah.”

“And the lie detector test, you passed?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s wonderful, we’ve been praying our hearts out. Jenelle even saw an angel today, come in the computer room…”


Then she passed the phone to Buddy, who wanted to know if everything was OK. Jamie said that people were pointing fingers, to which Buddy responded:


“Pointing fingers? Jiminy Christmas.”


Encouraged by investigators to extract as much information as possible, Jamie clumsily pressed on…


“Yeah, I just, uh, wanted to, you know, call and uh, let you know, just uh, you got rid of everything that was from Bill’s didn’t you?”


Buddy replied:


“Uh-huh.”

Jamie:


“OK. That makes me feel better.”


Then Buddy commented with a broad statement, possibly to remind Jamie of the story they should stick to:


“They ain’t got no reason to point no fingers at you or nothing. Because Jiminy Christmas, all the shit Bill was in. I’ve heard more stuff about gangs and things there in the last few days and stuff that he was involved in in Johnson City. Everything is crazy, and I still think it’s a drug deal went bad.”


Based on Buddy’s response to Jamie’s question alluding to him disposing of evidence, the simple “Uh-huh”, police arrested Buddy at his home at 2:30am the following morning. It was a long shot, as they did not have much – or any evidence against Buddy for this brutal crime. 


Police questioned Buddy, they were trying to understand why Buddy had killed the young parents. Was it to protect his daughter? Why would he have killed the young couple in cold blood?


Buddy eventually came out with a story that there was a $3000 bounty on Jenelle’s head. He had to protect her, but he claimed that Barbara and Jenelle did not know what he had done. Police gave him opportunity to call his wife before they resumed the interrogation. 


They recorded the conversation where he told Barbara that he was the one who killed Bill and Billie-Jean. Then Barbara stood strong and felt he was under duress and admitted to something he hadn’t done. She kept saying Buddy was not guilty – almost like she was coaching him. She used the exact phrase: ‘not guilty’ over and over. She even said that she could vouch for the fact that he was home all night. 


This is a strange reaction if Barbara had no prior knowledge of Buddy’s involvement. Surely, if a husband calls his wife from the police station to say he had brutally murdered two young people, the reaction would be that of shock and horror: how could he have done it? Or disbelief even. But not Barbara, she was only focussed on convincing him to maintain his innocence. Say nothing, then there is nothing. 


After the phone call Buddy asked for a lawyer and the interrogation had to stop.


Back at the Potter home, as Buddy was taken in to custody earlier that evening, police conducted a search of the property. They were looking for any evidence that could link Buddy Potter to the murders of Bill Payne and Billy-Jean Hayworth. 


They found multiple firearms at the home. Buddy Potter definitely would have been a capable gunman – but did one of his weapons kill the couple?


Barbara and Jenelle Potter reluctantly complied with officers’ requests. One officer noticed Barbara Potter tearing up a piece of paper that was lying on a coffee table in the living room. He intervened and was able to see what was on the paper: a printed-out photo of Billie-Jean Hayworth and some of her friends – a photo that was downloaded from Billie-Jean’s Facebook page.


In the Potter’s truck, police found three white trash bags filled with shredded documents. They took it in for examination and on closer investigation, it was revealed that all the documents were emails that had been printed out and shredded. This jigsaw puzzle of shreds took a month to tape back together. Once it was all done, a whole new layer to this story unfolded.


The document trail of thousands of emails, mostly it was the communication between Barbara and her online friend, ‘CIA-Chris’. Besides warning Barbara that Bill and Billy-Jean were out to get Jenelle, Chris stirred up emotions as he claimed that the eldest Potter daughter, Christie had a bounty out on Barbara’s head. He trash-talked Christie, which was appreciated by Barbara, as she had growing animosity towards her eldest daughter. Here are some snippets of an email from Chris:


“What I found on Christie was true and she is in a mess. You can’t help her, it’s too late… She needs to grow up. I got rid of family members in Russia and then New York and some others… Killing doesn’t bother me at all. I’m no longer scared of Christie. I can kill her at any time… I just might. I hope that God understands my job and I’m still believing in him.”


The emails were riddled with spelling errors and strange use of punctuation. The exact unusual way Jenelle writes. One would imagine that an intelligence officer like so-called Chris would have a higher level of accuracy when writing letters. But the penny never dropped for Barbara. She felt Chris from the CIA was protecting her family from all evil, even from Christie. 


In the past, friction between Barbara and her eldest daughter escalated to the point that Christie was granted an order of protection against her own mother. At the time, Christie had separated from her husband and moved in with her grandmother, Barbara’s mother, in Mountain City. Christie and her grandmother had always been close, and she would rather live with her than with her own parents.


When the grandmother was taken in to hospital, Christie alleged the rest of her family entered the home and threatened her. On another occasion, Barbara tried to get Christie booked for driving with Pennsylvania plates while living in Tennessee. There was no love lost between this mother and daughter. Chris stoked the fires with each email, victimising Barbara and giving her more emotional ammunition to use against Christie.


Many of the emails focussed on the onslaught of evil comments made by Bill Payne and Billie-Jean Hayworth about Jenelle. Some of the emails go into detail about Bill’s drug use and the fact that he was dealing in drugs. The truth was, Bill never dealt drugs and he had stopped using painkillers as recreational drugs. At the time of these emails, the accusations against Bill were completely unfounded. He had even given up smoking after Tyler was born, as he didn’t want to smoke around his baby.


But police knew something wasn’t right. As it turned out, tracking the IP address, they were able to prove that all the emails from Chris were, in fact, sent from the Potter’s home computer. 


Forensic linguists also confirmed that the incorrect use of language was consistent with Jenelle’s way of writing. Remember, she had a learning disability and her spelling was quite unique. They were able to match a writing sample from Jenelle’s statement to police about the events leading up to her father’s arrest.


All of this made Barbara look pretty naïve and gullible. Perhaps it was exactly that, the similarities between ‘Chris’ and Jenelle that felt familiar to her. But she didn’t connect the dots. To her, Chris was the son she never had. Jenelle was very aware of the fact that her mom was taken in by CIA stories told by her dad, she knew how to get to her. The fact that Buddy did not find it suspicious and fell for the communication from CIA-Chris, does make one question if he was ever connected to the CIA as he had claimed. It is safe to say… Probably not.


As for Jenelle… Chris was her alter-ego: he was an international man of mystery, who killed bad guys. He was married to his one true love, but she sadly died. Jenelle went so far as to claim that Chris was born in the same hospital as Jenelle, on the same day, only minutes apart. It is interesting that she chose the name ‘Chris’, bearing in mind her older sister is called Christie. The emails show exactly how dark and disturbed Jenelle’s mind was. Behind the childlike sweetness of an alleged mentally challenged person, lurked a manipulative monster.


Interestingly: the emails from Christ started around the time that Billie-Jean moved in with Billy and they got engaged. Hiding behind the mysterious, sometimes menacing Chris, Jenelle could say whatever she wanted to.


Barbara was catfished by her own daughter, using the exact same computer. Catfishing – if you’re not familiar with the term – is when somebody creates a fake online identity, in order to deceive a person on the other end. It’s mostly used for online dating or fraudulent reasons, but in Jenelle’s case, she catfished her parents into believing that her life was in danger. She knew that Barbara would tell Buddy about her communication with CIA-Chris, in fact, she was probably present when her mother told her father about the looming threats.  


The emails revealed that it was Barbara’s idea to ask Jamie to assist Buddy in killing Bill and Billy-Jean. There was enough evidence to arrest Barbara and Jenelle too, both charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.


Arguably, the most damning comment was in one of Barbara’s emails to Chris, about the feud between Bill and Billie-Jean and Jenelle. Barbara wrote:


“We’ve had enough, and we want peace, and no one here wants to kill anyone, but we will.”


Barbara and Jenelle denied any involvement in the murders and Jenelle even stated that it was NOT her who had posed as CIA-Chris. Barbara maintained that someone else had used her email address in communicating with Chris, and that they could not prove it was her who had typed those emails. Jenelle’s text messages to Jamie Curd in the early morning hours on the day of the murders, also did not do her case any favours. It proved that she knew about the plot to kill her former crush and his fiancée.


An interview with Barbara Potter shows that this mother’s love does have its limits. She denied her involvement with indignation. When asked if she thought her daughter was guilty, she said.


“I don’t know – I would hope not… I love her, but I’m not gonna serve life for her.” 


First to stand trial was Buddy Potter, in October 2013. Many local Mountain City residents testified about Buddy’s threatening behaviour in the years leading up to the murders. Whenever anyone crossed Jenelle, they had her war-veteran dad to deal with. Despite Buddy’s defence team claiming he was innocent, and that the murders were because of a drug deal gone bad, the jury didn’t think so. It only took them three hours to find Buddy guilty of the murders and handed two life sentences. 


It also came out that Buddy was convicted back in 2004, for fabricating facts about his service in the Vietnam War. He had displayed medals which he had not earned. He was not the war hero he had claimed to be.


Prosecution had a tricky case with Jenelle and Barbara. They had to prove to the jury that both women were guilty of murder, even though they were never at the murder scene. Police could never find any evidence that Bill or Billy-Jean ever threatened Jenelle or her family. The whole drama was ignited from Jenelle’s jealousy – that she could not have Bill Payne. 


At the trial Chris Tjaden came forward, a former class mate of Jenelle’s. Chris was handsome and worked in law enforcement and it was obvious that it was his identity that she assumed in her alias as the CIA agent.


May 2015, three years after the brutal murders, both Barbara and Jenelle were also found guilty of murder in the first degree. Jamie Curd testified for the Prosecution, against Barbara and Jenelle. But he did not get away with the role he played in the murders. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, however, he would be eligible for parole in 2019.


Barbara and Jenelle all appealed their verdicts, but it doesn’t look promising. In early 2018, a judge denied their request for a new trial. At this point in time, none of them – Buddy, Barbara and Jenelle, would ever walk free again.


Billy and Billie-Jean’s son Tyler, who is almost 10 years old, is being cared for by extended family. But that is a small comfort, knowing that his parents were killed in a senseless act of manipulation and revenge. Janie Hayworth, Billie-Jean’s sister, addressed Jenelle in court: 


“We will tell Tyler how much his parents loved him and wanted to be with him and watch him grow up,’ she added. ‘You may have taken his parents, but you will never take away the memories that we will be sharing with him.”


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