On January 31, 2012 the bodies of thirty-six year old Billy Payne and his twenty-three year old finance', Billie Jean Hayworth were found in their home in Mountain City Tennessee. They had both been shot in the face as well as Payne's throat had been cut while he was in bed. Hayworth had been holding the couples seven month old son when she was shot. The baby was left unharmed but he was covered in his mothers blood.
It did not seem to take long before authorities started looking into Jenelle Potter. Jenelle was thirty-one years old and lived with her parents Marvin and Barbara. Reports of what issues Jenelle may have had seem sketchy at best. There was a report that she suffered from diabetes and that her parents had overly sheltered her. There were also reports that while she was an adult that she “operated on the level of and eight or nine year old.” Whether that was from the sheltered life in which she had been apparently forced to suffer through or because of a brain issue is unclear. Even at thirty-one her parents monitored her Facebook contacts and activity. Jenelle knew both Payne and Hayworth. She had met Payne through his sister Tracey Greenwell. Authorities would claim that Jenelle had fallen in love with Payne but it is unclear that there was any evidence of this and it appears even Payne's family disagrees.
One thing everyone does agree with it that for one reason or another Jenelle, Payne and Hayworth had an online “war.” It is unclear just what was said, or even who started it but by the time it was over they had all unfriended each other. Jenelle would claim that she was “bullied relentlessly” online with anonymous comments and she believed Hayworth was behind them. It was also unclear exactly what these supposed comments said or referred to. There were some who said that Jenelle had stated she wished Payne, Hayworth and their baby dead but to be fair it is unclear whether this was actually said. It does however seem to be in part what turned investigators in her direction. The Potter family were questioned the day after the murders.
Jenelle had been dating Payne's cousin, Jamie Curd, without her parents' knowledge. He was brought in for questions within a few days and given a lie detector test. He would be told that when he was asked if he knew who the killer was and had answered “no” that he was lying. It was soon after this that Jamie Curd would tell authorities that he had been texting with a man named “Chris” who claimed he was a CIA agent and that his job was to protect Jenelle. After six hours of questioning Jamie would tell the investigators that he did in fact know who had killed Payne and Hayworth..... Marvin Potter.
On February 8, 2012 both Curd and Marvin Potter were arrested and charged with the murders of the couple, but the investigation was far from over. After arresting Marvin Potter at his home, investigators questioned him at the police station while at the same time had officers at his home doing a search. They also had a warrant to search Marvin's truck.
At the home the investigators seized the computers. They also saw a picture in the front room of Hayworth and her friends. Information on this was a bit sketchy as it says Barbara later ripped those pictures seemingly in an attempt to hide them from investigators but I was unable to determine if “later” simply meant while the investigators were still in the home and they were collected or if they were seen and not collected. In the back of Marvin's truck they found several bags full of shredded documents. There was a poor detective in charge of going through these and reconstructing what would be found to be over 100 pages of emails to the Potter family.
Barbara would also tell investigators that she too, like Curd, was communicating with “Chris,” the CIA agent, and was being told that there were threats to Jenelle's life. Forensics on the home computers would show that emails and communication from “Chris” would come from the computer inside the Potter home. Investigators would come to believe that “Chris” was in fact Jenelle and that she had invented this person in order to encourage her parents, and Curd that Hayworth and Payne were threatening her. Some have argued that it was not Jenelle and could have been Barbara or Marvin but for me the fact that Curd was also having communications with “Chris” makes it more likely that it was Jenelle. Prosecutors would also point out that in the writings that came from “Chris” there were grammar errors and misspellings that had been found in things that Jenelle had been proven to right.
Several weapons were found in the home but none seemed to match the murder weapon.
In the meantime, as I said Marvin was being questioned at the police department. Investigators had Marvin call Barbara and tell her that he had done the murders. She proclaimed not to believe him. She would later claim that when he was arrested that they did not take his Oxygen with them and that without it he would make strange comments. Apparently this was as close as investigators would get to a confession from Marvin.
In August of 2013 Barbara and Jenelle would be arrested and also charged in the murders of Payne and Hayworth. While investigators believed that it was all spawned over first Jenelle's infatuation, prosecutors would also believe that it also had to do with the fact that the couple had “unfriended” Jenelle on Facebook. They had found that in May of 2011 a woman named Lindsey Thomas had sued Jenelle for harassment. Thomas would claim that Jenelle had obtained her phone number and had continually called her and contacted her after she had unfriended her on Facebook. There was apparently evidence that this was not the only incident in which Jenelle took the act of “unfriending” to the extreme and saw it as a slight to her. When this happened Jenelle would take things personally and become angry. It was largely believed due to the strictness of her parents and her inability to properly socialize that her life consisted almost exclusively online. Sure there were a few people she communicated with outside the online world, but apparently those were few.
In October of 2013 Marvin would be convicted and sentenced to two life terms in prison. Curd, who had broke the case for detectives, as was as had evidence against him showing his own involvement, as well as Jenelle's, took a plea deal in which he received a sentence of twenty-five years.
In May of 2015 Jenelle and Barbara were put on trial. The prosecution theory at trial was that while Jenelle created the “Chris” identification and got the ball rolling on things, that it was Barbara who had encouraged her husband to commit the murders. Jenelle's defense argued that she could not have created the false identity because of her low intelligence level. Apparently the jury did not believe either defense team and both women were convicted. In July of 2015 they were both sentenced to two life sentences.
Jamie Curd was eligible for parole apparently in 2015 but that was denied. His next parole hearing is in November of 2019. He could be released any time between then and the year 2035. By the dates I found it seems that Barbara and Jenelle's sentences are to run concurrently, meaning together as they are both eligible for parole in the year 2072. However, it appears that Marvin's sentence was concurrent, one after another, since his earliest chance at parole is not until the year 2132!
To this day Jenelle denies being involved or that she posed as the CIA agent that encouraged the murders to happen in the first place but it seems that the evidence is rather clear against her. Billy Payne's sister, Tracey Greenwell would say that Jenelle always seemed to believe that people hated her and often said different people wanted her killed to the point that she appeared paranoid. We all seem to run into “odd” people from time to time who may have paranoid thoughts but none of us ever imagine something like this would occur in our lives. Whether the murders happened simply because Jenelle was angry that the couple had unfriended her on social media or if it was because she had an infatuation with Billy Payne may never become clear, and does it really matter. Not only did a child become an orphan that day, he will never remember or know his parents, but he gets to live with the idea that he could have been killed also. Even worse than that his mother was holding him as she was shot and died. Her blood covered his body. How do you live with that regardless if you remember it or not?