Jurors began the second day of the first-degree murder trial of Marvin Enoch “Buddy” Potter Jr. on Tuesday by hearing testimony about the shooting deaths of Billy Clay Payne, 36, and Billie Jean Hayworth, 23, inside their home at 128 James Davis Lane in Mountain City on Jan. 31, 2012. The day ended with the jurors watching the first half of a video of a more than three-hour interrogation of Potter after he was arrested a week later.
The day began with forensic pathologist Dr. Karen Cline-Parhamovich describing the findings of her autopsies. Both victims suffered gunshot wounds to the head. Hayworth died of a bullet that entered the right side of her head, a few inches above and behind her ear. The bullet came out the left side of her head, above the ear. Cline-Parhamovich said the shot was fired slightly downward and slightly to the rear and was of an undetermined distance, but the muzzle was not in contact with the head.
Payne was shot just below his left eye and close to his nose. He was shot at fairly close range because there was gunpowder on his skin.
In addition to Payne’s fatal gunshot wound, Cline-Parhamovich said his throat was also slashed. She said the cut did not sever an artery, but was fatal because a vein was cut that allowed air to enter the heart and caused an air embolism.
The rest of the morning was focused on how the deaths were discovered.
The first man to enter the home after the murders did not discover the bodies. Brad Osborne told the jury he carpooled with Payne to their job in a factory about 10 minutes away. He said Payne “was like a brother to me.”
Around 6:30 a.m. on the day of the murders, he waited outside for Payne, but when he did not show, Osborne said he tried to call. His cell phone was not working, so he went to the porch and knocked. When he still did not get an answer, he said he entered the house and called Payne on the landline in the living room. He said he did not get an answer. He testified he heard the alarm clock going off but, “out of respect to them, I didn’t want to go in their bedroom that early in the morning.” Osborne then left for work without Payne.
One of the three attorneys for the defense, Tate Davis, asked Osborne about drug usage of the mutual friends. Osborne testified that “occasionally we would use pain pills.” Osborne said he also bought pain pills from Payne, but four was the most he ever bought. “He got on pain pills pretty bad for a while, but he was seeking help,” Osborne said.
The next witness, Roy Stephens, found the bodies when he came to check his mail shortly after 10 a.m. He said he had frequently stayed in the home while he was separated from his wife. He said he found both vehicles owned by Hayworth and Payne in the driveway, but could get no one to answer the door.
He then stepped inside to get his mail and shouted for Payne. He felt something wasn’t right and walked down the hall to Payne’s bedroom. He found Payne’s body, dressed only in boxer shorts, lying partially on the bed. He saw blood on him, rushed inside and tried to shake him awake, but got no response.
“No, no, no. I realized he was dead,” Stephens said. He then ran outside to his parked minivan, where his wife was waiting. “I told my wife: ‘Billy is dead.’ ”
He instructed his wife to call 911, and realized that Hayworth “has got to be in the house, and the baby.” He rushed back in the house, headed for the nursery, where he found Hayworth lying on the floor with her 6-month-old son in her arms. “As soon as I saw the baby breathe, I went in the room and took the baby from her arms.” He said the baby had blood on it, but appeared to be unhurt. He said the baby did not make a sound.
A short time later, the Johnson County EMS arrived on the scene with two ambulances. Paramedic Jamie Cress said both Payne and Hayworth were dead when they arrived. Another member of the ambulance team, Jennifer Brown, said she did a quick assessment on the child, and except for dried blood he appeared to have no injuries.
The afternoon testimony was centered on Potter’s arrest. Scott Lott, of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said he first went to the Potter residence the day after the murders, where he talked to Marvin, his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Janelle. A recording of the interview was played for the jury in which Marvin and Janelle both complained about harassment and threats they had received from several people in the community. It had culminated in a Nov. 30, 2011, trial in Sessions Court on harassment charges.
“I get stressed out, I get very sick,” Janelle told the officers about the harassment. She said there were even threats to rape her.
She said she posted a message on an Internet site that said “Please leave me alone.”
Marvin expressed sadness to the investigators about the murders. He told them “I am sorry this happened to them. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
But as the investigation continued, the Potters continued to be suspects, along with Jamie Curd, who was described as having an love interest in Janelle.
Lott said he received a confession from Curd on his part in the murders Feb. 6. The investigators then took Curd to his workplace, where he called Potter. The conversation was recorded and at one point, Curd asked Potter “you got rid of everything that was from Bill’s, didn’t you?”
Potter said “uh-huh.”
The officers then made out arrest warrants for Potter and search warrants for his residence and truck. He was arrested around 3 a.m. Feb. 7.
The defense team then played a video of Lott interrogating Potter. The session began about an hour after his arrest and was more than three hours long. The jury heard only the first half during Tuesday’s session. The rest will be played this morning.
Many times on the video, Potter says “I didn’t do it. ... I didn’t kill them.” His alibi was that he went to the Mountain Home Veterans Hospital that morning. Lott said there is a hole in the early morning between when he left his house and the time he arrived at the hospital where he could have committed the murders.
In the video, Potter also denied the call from Curd was an admission of guilt. He said he did not have his hearing aids on and misunderstood what Curd had said.
Although the trials were committed in Johnson County, the trial is being held in Washington County because of a change of venue order. Three others, Barbara Potter, Janelle Potter and Curd, are also awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.