CAUGHT – Episode #3: Jenelle Potter Catfished Murder
Jenelle Potter created one of the most twisted catfish schemes known to man. She tricked her parents and everyone around her with a fake identity into plotting a double murder, all because of jealousy.
The Jenelle Potter Catfish Murder Plot
Jenelle Potter had an active imagination, but no one thought it would lead to a couple’s 2012 double murder. Jenelle lived with her parents and was diagnosed with Type I diabetes along with other issues. She had the mind of a 10-year old, even once she was in her thirties.
Short on friends and very sheltered, she spent most of her time online and on social media. Her parents monitored her social media accounts, as they knew that she could be easily influenced and led astray.
When Billy Payne and girlfriend Billie Jean Hayworth of Mountain City, Tennessee, was found shot to death in their home (via execution-style gunshots) an investigation was launched.
Payne’s throat had been slashed, but their 7-month old baby was remarkably found alive, though bloodied, alongside the couple. The baby’s mother, Billie Jean, had tragically been shot while she was holding her infant.
As the Sheriff’s Department began investigating along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Scott Lott found several names being (repeatedly) mentioned. They were Jenelle Porter, her parents (Barbara Potter and Marvin Potter), and someone called Jamie Curd. More interesting to the investigators, Jenelle – as innocent as she had seemed – had recently been in a Facebook feud with the deceased.
Jenelle was dating Jamie Curd, who was Billy Payne’s cousin (although her parents didn’t know and thought he was only a family friend who helped fix their computer). The feud was based on messages Jenelle had been receiving on Facebook, which she blamed on Billy and Billie Jean.
The trouble had first begun when the sheltered Jenelle befriended pharmacy clerk, Tracy Greenwell. Greenwell felt “sorry” for Jenelle and her lack of social life. To be kind, she began to include Jenelle in outings with her friends, including her brother Billy Payne.
She never thought of Jenelle as being in love with Billy, though some would suggest this later. It was through Greenwell that Jenelle began dating her and Billy’s cousin, Jamie Curd.
It wasn’t long before Jenelle began to claim she was being bullied. Mysterious comments would appear on her Facebook page, threatening her and saying she was wrong or would be raped. She would tell her friend Greenwell that someone hated her and wanted her to die. Naturally, Jenelle’s mother (Barbara) was concerned and posted a message to caution the stranger against writing these hateful messages.
Jenelle said she knew who was behind the bullying. She claimed it was her Facebook friend, Billie Jean, Billy’s girlfriend, who was jealous of her looks. A rock with Billy and Billie Jean’s name was even found “thrown” in the Potter’s front yard, which police photographed. As these problems continued, Jamie sided with his girlfriend and got in a physical fight with his cousin Billy.
A friend of the deceased couple later admitted to reading messages from Jenelle, where she said she wished Billy, Billie Jean, and their baby would die. After sparring back and forth online, all parties ended up deleting themselves as Facebook friends.
This could have been the end of problems but, instead, things got worse. Jenelle, Curd, and her parents had been receiving messages from someone in the CIA, in regards to the harassment. The (supposed) CIA person said it was his job to protect Jenelle at “all costs” and watched them each time they were out of their home. He said he was concealing his identity to protect them.
After the murders were discovered, police began to ask many questions. Their break in the case came when Curd mentioned being in contact with a CIA agent they had never heard. After a 6-hour interrogation, Curd also told police that he believed Marvin, Jenelle’s father, had killed Billie Jean Hayworth and Billy Payne.
To get a confession, Marvin was then arrested and questioned in a pre-dawn raid. In a phone call to his wife, Barbara, he would confess that he “did it”. Barbara, however, would later claim that Marvin’s confession was from not having his oxygen or medication, but police were convinced. At the same time, they used a search warrant to get evidence from the Potter’s home.
There, they found photos of the deceased and multiple weapons, though not the murder weapon. The agents were able to reconstruct shredded documents which pieced together emails the Potter family had been sent from someone claiming to be a CIA operative.
In the messages, CIA agent “Chris” had messaged that Jenelle’s life was in danger. Police were able to find the source of these messages. They had come from the IP address at the Potter’s home.
Lott then realized that Jenelle had catfished her parents and boyfriend, by pretending to be a government official named Chris. Her fake identity had tricked her parents into ignoring any signs or inaccuracies, and even tricked her father into killing the couple!
In 2013, Jenelle and her mother were arrested. Jenelle’s father was found guilty of the murders and given two life sentences. Curd went for a plea deal and received 25 years in prison. In 2015, Jenelle and Barbara and both were sentenced to life in prison, found guilty of first-degree murder.
Jenelle’s defense tried to argue that she lacked the mental ability to direct anyone to commit murder, while her mother said she hadn’t wanted anyone murdered. Agent Lott disagreed and called them “masterminds”. They compared her writing style and typos to those in “Chris’” messages.
Catfishing can be dangerous, such as in the case above. Are you concerned about the people you meet online?
Be sure to search for anyone who messages you and find out the truth about who they are. If you don’t protect yourself, who will?