In January 2012, a sleepy town in Tennessee awoke to the news of a horrifying double homicide. The victims were Billy Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth, a young couple who lived together. They had been shot right in the face after being beaten up. Though the worst part of the whole situation was that when their bodies were discovered, their 7-month-old baby son was found in the room, covered in his mother’s blood but otherwise unharmed.
As explored in A&E’s ‘Murder in the 21st: All In The Family,’ the police’s subsequent investigations into this cold-blooded double murder revealed a sordid, convoluted web of cyber-bullying, catfishing, love, and jealousy. A story at the center of which was a sheltered young woman named Jenelle Potter.
Who is Jenelle Potter?
Jenelle moved to Mountain City, Tennesse, in 2005 and due to poor health, she’d always led a sheltered life with her parents. These overprotective parents, Marvin and Barbara Potter, did not allow Jenelle to stay out late or drive or even have boyfriends. So when Jenelle, then 34, befriended a pharmacy clerk – Tracy Greenwell – and started dating her new friend’s cousin Jamie Curd, she kept her relationship a secret from her parents.
Even though she was dating Jamie, Jenelle apparently had a crush on Tracy’s brother Billy Payne. But the problem was that Billy already had a girlfriend named Billie Jean. When Jenelle started being bullied online on Facebook – someone was anonymously leaving hateful comments on her profile – she immediately blamed the latter, stating she hated her because she was pretty. The cyber-bullying got so bad that it turned into a whole feud, with Jamie and Billy also getting involved. Jenelle started getting rape threats and threats of physical violence too.
When the police talked to Jamie while investigating the murders, Jamie asked a weird question about the CIA being there. It was revealed then that he and Barbara (Jenelle’s mom) had been texting and emailing with some guy named Chris who’d told them he was a CIA Agent whose job was to protect Jenelle at all cost. Reportedly, as Jamie and Barbara informed the police, Chris had been keeping an eye on Jenelle and knew about the cyber-bullying and harassment she had been facing at the alleged hands of Billy and Billie Jean. That’s when they found out that this “Chri”s had convinced Barbara to goad her gun-loving ex-marine husband Marvin into committing the young couple’s murders. Marvin had already confessed to killing them by this point, saying he only did what he had to do to keep his daughter safe.
But the police were still baffled about the identity of Chris. When they traced the IP address of his emails, it turned out to be the same IP address as that of the Potter’s home computer. Therefore, in 2013, they arrested both Barbara and Jenelle as well. It turned out that Jenelle was posing as the non-existent Chris – she’d catfished her parents and boyfriend in the year leading up to the murders, and had orchestrated the killings of Billy and Billy Jean without ever picking up a weapon herself. Jamie took a plea deal of 25 years and gave testimony against the Potter family.
Where is Jenelle Potter Now?
It was in 2015 that both Jenelle and Barbara stood trial for the first-degree murder charges against them, just to be convicted following seven days of testimonies despite their lawyers indicating they never wished for anyone to get hurt. As a result, they were sentenced to two life terms in a state correctional facility without the possibility of parole, only for the former’s subsequent appeal to result in this original verdict being upheld. Therefore, today, at the age of 42, she remains incarcerated at the Debra Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and state records indicate her sentence will only end on March 8, 2069.