Catfishing For Murder

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For a lot of people social media simply enhances their lives, they don’t take it too personally; Jenelle Potter was not one of those people. She didn’t have any sort of a life at all outside of social media, meaning Facebook has been her entire world.

Mountain City, Tennessee in 2005

Jenelle was a grown woman of thirty still living at home with her domineering parents, Barbara and Marvin “Buddy” Potter, who still parented their daughter as if she were a 10 year old. That’s not just a random number, by the way; 8 – 10 was the age which Barbara and Buddy claimed their daughter’s mental capacity to be. Jenelle did not drive, she didn’t hold any sort of a job nor any real responsibilities; the woman was treated as a small child, complete with a predetermined bed time and all.

In 2009 Jenelle met Tracy Greenwell; she’d been a young woman employed at the pharmacy which the Potters frequented in order to fill Jenelle’s diabetic medications. Tracy had taken pity on the sad shut-in; in Jenelle she saw a very lonely young woman who she believed she could help by introducing Jenelle to her own group of friends. Tracy’s biggest mistake would prove to be introducing this woman to her brother, 36 year old Billy Payne. Soft hearted like his sister, Billy decided to take this girl under his wing; he’d even taken Jenelle rock climbing and to the county fair. But you know that old saying: no good deed goes unpunished. Though the man of her dreams always kept the friendship platonic and did his best not to send out the wrong signals, Jenelle had promptly fallen hopelessly in love.

Tracy Greenwell

When Billy first began seeing 23 year old Billie Jean Hayworth, he still did his best to include his female pal in his life; this hasn’t proved an easy feat as Jenelle was mighty jealous. Though she had, without her parent’s knowledge, been dating Billy’s cousin, Jamie Curd, Jenelle was still fixated on the man who had been so kind to her. Jenelle felt that Billy was hers before Billie Jean showed up; she treated the woman she deemed to be her adversary like dirt! When Billie Jean came up pregnant, Billy did what most honorable men would do: he realized it was time to put an end to his friendship with a woman who refused to respect the mother of his unborn child.

Billy & Billie

Billy was so happy with his beautiful new life; he and Billie Jean became engaged, moved in together, and soon they were blessed with a perfect baby boy named Tyler. The young couple dreamed of a wonderful future as a family, a dream which they would never be allowed to fulfill. While the happy new family were living in bliss, Jenelle was beside herself; she was obsessed obsessing, and plotting her revenge.

Sometime during Billie Jean’s pregnancy Jenelle had begun to complain that she was being cyber stalked, threatened, and harassed. At one point a stone was found in the Potters yard; on this stone were written the names Billy Payne and Billie Jean, the pair who Jenelle claimed to be behind the hate campaign against her. In turn, Jenelle’s online pals began to leave threatening messages for Billy and Billie Jean. There had been so much tension between Billie Jean and Jenelle that the real life group of friends who had recently taken her under their wing completely stopped talking to her; Jenelle was now completely alone with her parents again. Just one person remained by her side: Billy’s very best friend and cousin, Jamie Curd.

Billy with his best friend and cousin, Jamie who is making the peace sign

Throughout all of this drama, Billy and Billie Jean had kept Jenelle on their Facebook friend’s list, until this point. It was finally just too much drama for the happy couple; Jenelle was now unfriended. This was absolutely catastrophic for Jenelle, and she had no intention of letting anyone move on with their lives! Sadly Billy, Billie Jean, nor their friends had any inking that they were in danger – why would they? Jenelle seemed physically harmless, at best she could inspire some hate from strangers via the interwebs. The happy couple believed they were strong enough to weather Jenelle’s storm; sadly, they were dead wrong.

The perfect family

When Jenelle’s cyber stalking began, a man who identified himself as Chris came out of the woodwork; he began writing to Jenelle’s mom, Barbara, online. Chris claimed to have known Jenelle from school, and he was now a CIA agent. Though Barbara could not remember ever meeting this strange man in person, the two became fast friends; they grew so incredibly close that Barbara began to refer to Chris as her son. Chris was supposedly keeping an eye on Billie Jean and her friends, and he was growing more concerned by the day; Jenelle was in imminent danger. Through online chats he’d stated that the happy couple had been abusing hard drugs, Billie was a known sex worker, and that they planned to kidnap and rape Jenelle because not only was so very pretty, but also a virgin. If all of this weren’t bad enough, Chris claimed to have proof that this evil couple had been planning to cut off Jenelle’s beautiful head! Upon hearing this, Barbara panicked and Buddy, Jenelle’s Marine corps Vietnam veteran father who had some serious health issues, was finally brought into the conversation.

Now, if you’re a parent you can probably imagine how Barbara and Buddy felt after learning of a plan to kidnap, rape, murder, and decapitate their mentally challenged daughter; it must’ve been sheer panic! Most of us would be livid, but as adults we would probably still run to the police right away, but Buddy and Barbara didn’t do that. They were told by CIA Chris that time was running out: if they wanted to save their sweet, innocent daughter’s life, they had to act right away! At this point Jenelle’s close friend, Jamie (who was also Billy’s best friend and cousin) was brought into the fold; the white knights who loved Jenelle quickly formulated a plan to save her.

Jamie and Jenelle

In the early morning hours of January 31st of 2012, Buddy and Jamie entered Billie Jean and Billy’s home. Billy was shot on the head and his throat was slashed as he lay in bed; Billie Jean was shot in the face while holding her infant son on the couch. Baby Tyler was not harmed, but he was left alone in the home with his murdered parents, covered in his Mama’s blood. Just before fleeing, Jamie planted drug paraphernalia at the scene in hopes of throwing the investigation off. It would be several hours before the corpses were discovered, and the poor baby was rescued from his dead Mama’s arms.

Since everyone in town knew of the ongoing war between Billy, Billie Jean, and Jenelle, of course she was an immediate person of interest. Not that anyone believed the childlike 30 year old was capable of anything like this, but police still had to question her; maybe she knew something that could lead them to their killer. Investigators visited the Potters home for a quick interview; Jenelle and her parents claimed they knew nothing of what had happened to the murdered couple, only that they had been harassing Jenelle because they were jealous of her beauty. The family played it cool, and it’s very likely they would’ve gotten away with it all, were it not for Jamie.

Upon hearing through the grapevine that Jamie had been dating Jenelle, the man was brought in for questioning by police. Now Jamie could not be described as an accomplished liar; he failed a polygraph test, and soon confessed. He admitted to entering the victim’s home with Jenelle’s daddy; Buddy had been the one who slashed Billy’s throat then shot both the man and woman in the face. According to Jamie, he was merely guilty of planted drugs at the scene to throw the investigation off. Once Billy and Billie Jean were good and dead, the two men left their victim’s baby alone with his murdered parents.

Buddy, who police had originally believed to be physically incapable of committing the crime due to a myriad of health issues, was brought in for questioning. A few hours later he placed a phone call to his wife in which he admitted, “I did it”. Even now police still had no clue exactly what they were dealing with, or how strange this case would become; not until Jamie asked them if the CIA was there to talk with him yet. Police were taken aback; why in the world would the CIA be involved in a small town murder case like this? Then Jamie dropped a bombshell: the double murder had been completely planned out by a CIA agent named Chris.

Jamie and Buddy

Upon a search of the Potter home police seized many items, including the family computer and Buddy’s truck. In the bed of said truck were hundreds of papers which had been shredded up and thrown in a trash bag; these papers contained printed conversations between the Potters and CIA Chris. But who exactly was this Chris guy? Investigators tracked down a man named Chris Tjaden who had gone to school with Jenelle; this Chris was not a government agent, but a police officer. Though the mysterious CIA Chris had used all of Chris Tjaden’s photos as his own, the officer was completely unaware of the situation; matter of fact, he barely even remembered a Jenelle from high school! It was obvious that someone had been impersonating this officer online.

When investigators began looking at the Potter family’s computers, lo and behold, they discovered CIA Chris’s messages had been sent from Jenelle’s IP address, and she’d contacted this man by writing to her very own email address! But that’s not all they found: remember all of that harassment which Jenelle had suffered through, all of those threatening messages sent by Billie Jean and her friends? Every bit of it had been sent by Jenelle to make her look like a victim! And all those messages which Billie Jean had been receiving from Jenelle’s online friends? Every single one of them had been sent from Jenelle’s computer as well.

Jenelle had created dozens upon dozens of false profiles; she spent a good deal of her life pretending to be fake people, and creating a feud in which no one besides herself truly partook in. Upon feeling slighted by Billy, Jenelle had come up with a plan to get even; this plan included catfishing her very own mother! She invented lies about her targets, and began harassing herself to make it look like she was being victimized. In one online message Jenelle, using a different name, wrote, “Fuck you and Bill and your fucking so-called little baby. Fuck them. I hope they die, die, die, and that baby”. Jenelle mentioned baby Taylor’s death quite often, she’d definitely wanted this innocent little baby dead. Jenelle was really nothing but a master manipulator.

Upon her arrest, Jenelle just couldn’t comprehend why she was in trouble. She didn’t personally kill anyone, how could she possibly be held criminally responsible? Jenelle had truly believed that she could trick everyone who loved her into committing cold blooded murder, they’d pay the price, and she would walk away scott free! Thankfully the law sees these things differently.

Jamie took a plea deal: in exchange for his testimony against Buddy, he received 25 years; Buddy was given two life sentences. Jenelle and her mother Barbara both loudly proclaimed their innocence; they seemed to believe they could manipulate their way out of their legal trouble. Barbara swore that she would not lie for anyone’s sake, not even her daughter’s! Jenelle’s defense claimed that it would’ve been impossible for her to mastermind this sort of a crime with her 4th grader mentality; she continued to claim that she’d truly suffered bullying by scores of people online, and that CIA Chris had truly been real! When it was mentioned that she’d been not only received messages from but also contacted CIA Chris by sending messages to very own email address, Jenelle retorted that this was possible because CIA Chris had continuously hacked her account no matter how many times she changed the password. When it was proven that the real Chris was not involved in the scenario at all, Jenelle said she wasn’t sure of CIA Chris’s true identity, but that she’d had a good feeling it was someone she’d attended school with him. It was all so far fetched, and the jury saw right through it. Jenelle and her mother are both serving 2 concurrent life sentences for 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit 1st degree murder. Jenelle will be 80 years of age when she is finally up for parole.

There is another player in this scenario, though very distant she may hold some insight: Jenelle’s estranged sister, Christie Groover. Christie says that her sister was always socially awkward. Their parents forced her to make friends, but they were forever going on about how “different” Jenelle was. Christie got the hell out of Dodge more than a decade before the murders, and she completely cut her family off. After losing all control of Christie, mother began to focus all of her attention on the other daughter. To say that Barbara was over protective would be an understatement; by treating Jenelle like a 10 year old forever, Barbara would always have complete control. The spoiled Jenelle was never going to abandon her parents. When someone threatened to take away the only child they had left, Barbara and Buddy flipped; Buddy did the unthinkable. That’s my take on it anyhow.

Fantastic book

*About the drugs which Jamie planted at the scene, I read that in a book years ago. I wanna say that it was a crack pipe left on the porch. Though I definitely remember reading about it, I can not find a citation to back this up; please take that fact with a grain of salt.

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